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Why rapid-fire updates are the key to Microsoft's success

Brad Chacos | April 4, 2013
Ask five geeks about Windows 8’s greatest flaw, and you’re bound to get five different answers. Some diss the new Start screen. Some hate the big hole where the Start button used to be. Others rail against the indignity of having to swipe open a Charms bar to print or search for anything. And what’s with those Microsoft Accounts?

Turning Blue in the (Sur)face

Windows Blue and its alleged kickstarting of annual Windows updates ties into the mix in a couple different ways. While Blue is rumored to be a free updatethe first taste is always freeits presumed follow-ups are understood to be premium upgrades, which will get users accustomed to paying yearly for Windows even if the operating system isnt technically a service.

It may just work if Apples OS X adoption is any indication. The latest numbers for Net Applications show that more than two-thirds of Mac users run OS X 10.7 or OS X 10.8, the two most recent iterations of the operating system, with nearly half running OS X 10.8. Thats either a lot of $20 and $30 OS upgrades, or a lot of recent computers sold.

Speaking of which, the changes in Blue make Windows 8s contentious modern UI a lot more palatable, which in turn helps to make Microsofts Surface tablet more attractive to would-be buyers. Microsoft is a services and  devices company now, remember? The speedy application of new interface tweaks could breathe new life into languishing Windows tablets. If this was Old Monolithic Microsoft, the Mail app would still be just as lackluster as it was on October 26, and Windows Blues fancy new syncing options wouldnt appear until at least 2015, far behind the times.

With what Ive seen of Windows Blue, its really more of what Windows 8 should have been, Miller says. But they have to make those changes. They have to put more value in there that consumers want in order to really incent people to buy both Surface devices as well as any other Windows 8 or RT devices.

And with fast, incremental updates, Microsoft can do just that.

Finally, the move to frequent updates ties into Microsofts cross-device vision of the future. The shift to Live Tiles wasnt just a design decision, but a complete shift in strategy for Microsoft, as well as a cornerstone of the virtuous circle.

Our product groups are also taking a unified planning approach so people get what they wantall of their devices, apps and services working together wherever they are, and for whatever they are doing, said Microsoft communications honcho Frank X. Shaw in the same blog post that announced the shift to continuous development and officially acknowledged Windows Blue.

The lumbering three-year release cycle doesnt jibe with the new focus on services and interconnectedness. To keep all of its various services and platforms in tune and humming nicely, Microsoft needs to update them in near-unison. Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, and Windows Server 2012 are all reportedly slated to receive Blue-tinged updates of their own. And dont forget how Xboxes integrate with everything.


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