Microsoft today re-released Windows 10’s October 2018 Update. Rather than explaining what went wrong, Microsoft publicly patted itself on the back for its great quality assurance process. Microsoft promises increased transparency and better communication, but talk is cheap.
Has Anything Changed?
There’s only one lasting change to Windows 10’s development process we know about, and that was made on October 9. The Feedback Hub now lets Windows Insiders rate the “severity” of issues they’re reporting. This should help the Windows team catch serious file-deletion bugs instead of overlooking them.
Microsoft has not announced any concrete changes in the last month. With the re-release of the October 2018 Update, Microsoft has slowed down after it got burned:
While the April Update had the fastest Windows 10 update rollout velocity, we are taking a more measured approach with the October Update, slowing our rollout to more carefully study device health data.
But Microsoft has not said whether this is a lasting change. Next time around, Microsoft could quickly release the update to people who click “Check for Updates” again.
Microsoft Promises “Transparency”
Microsoft published a lengthy blog post about how it ensures Windows 10 quality. Most of that post is describing all the work Microsoft was already doing to test Windows 10. Microsoft claims it’s doing a great job with “Windows as a service” and says “customer incidents” are down with every update.
Microsoft also says that “critical to any discussion of Windows quality is the sheer scale of the Windows ecosystem.” In other words, this is all very complicated and difficult work!
It seems Microsoft is trying to deflect criticisms by pointing out it often does a good job. For example, Microsoft points out that it issues thousands of driver updates a month through Windows Update. That’s great, but it’s still a problem when Microsoft releases a buggy driver that breaks your PC’s sound.
The blog post doesn’t really have any concrete details about what Microsoft is changing going forward. Microsoft is just promising transparency:
Our focus until now has been almost exclusively on detecting and fixing issues quickly, and we will increase our focus on transparency and communication. We believe in transparency as a principle and we will continue to invest in clear and regular communications with our customers when there are issues.
It’s very easy for a company to promise “increased focus on transparency and communication.” Companies do it all the time in response to public relations problems. But that doesn’t mean Microsoft will actually follow through.
Worse yet, Microsoft has not promised to change Windows 10’s development process in any way. Here’s what the blog post says:
As part of our commitment to being more transparent about our approach to quality, this blog will be the first in a series of more in-depth explanations of the work we do to deliver quality in our Windows releases.
In other words, Microsoft is going to be transparent by telling us about all the good work it’s already been doing.
What Microsoft Needs to Do
This isn’t what Windows users want. We want Microsoft to understand that the Windows development process is broken. Bugs keep popping up—deleted files, PCs suddenly being deactivated, driver updates breaking hardware, file associations broken. These big twice-yearly updates seem like they’re just making things worse.
Windows users shouldn’t dread installing an update because it might delete their files. In the long history of Windows, this has never happened before. How could a Windows engineer write the code telling Windows 10 to delete a folder without checking if it was empty? How was this code never tested at Microsoft before it made its way out to real users? And why didn’t Microsoft see the warnings from the Insiders who had their files deleted?
We want Microsoft to understand the problem, take it seriously, and make some real changes. But Microsoft seems disconnected from users. Microsoft is saying it already does a lot of work to ensure Windows 10’s quality, as if Windows users would be happier if only we knew about all Microsoft’s hard work.
No. We’d be happier if Microsoft would stop breaking things.
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