It’s time to chase reliability instead of shiny new features.
There’s no question that Windows 10 is better than Windows 8. Even after launch, it continues to improve by leaps and bounds, thanks to a rapid update cadence never seen before in the history of the world’s most used operating system.
Much of this is a result of Microsoft’s change in its Windows strategy. With Windows 10, Microsoft has shifted from a perpetual licensing model that requires you to pay for a new license whenever a major upgrade comes around to a Windows as a service model that provides patches and adds new features continually for the lifetime of your device.
For the most part, the existing plan to release two feature updates a year has worked well - Windows Ink, Windows Subsystem for Linux, Game Mode, Paint 3D, Night Light, Timeline, and Cloud Clipboard, just to name a few are all exciting and useful features not available in the initial release but added in the six feature updates over the last three years.
But in this chase for new features, something gives: reliability. The most recent debacle was the Windows 10 October 2018 Update (version 1809), which in case you’re unaware of, was pulled just two days after its public release when some users complained that the update erased their documents, photos, and other files. As of this writing, Microsoft has restarted the upgrade distribution; and while the company is assisting users whose files had been deleted, it can’t guarantee that they’re recoverable.
I don’t see Microsoft walking away from its twice-a-year update cycle, because I think it’s still fundamentally a good idea: the new features have so far been useful, and they do improve the platform and keep it fresh. However, I don’t think both updates have to be feature updates - one of them can be a reliability update which goals are to improve performance and fix old features that somehow broke along the way instead of new end-user features. You know, like the kind of update Apple famously did with Mac OS X Snow Leopard in 2009. This schedule should also give engineers working on upcoming features more time to test them and fix bugs before release.
Microsoft’s Insider program and its feedback channel need some tweaks, too. Apparently, testers had flagged about the data loss before version 1809’s official release, but the bug didn’t get enough attention because it didn’t garner a lot of upvotes.
Finally, Microsoft should give Windows 10 Home users the ability to defer feature updates, something that Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise users can already do. I understand Microsoft wants as many people to use the latest version of Windows, but I’d argue that the current restriction doesn’t make sense because Windows 10 Home is most likely found on slower systems and used by less tech-savvy users who would not know what to do when an update goes haywire.
Windows as a service has been a bumpy ride since 2015 - it’s high time to correct the course.
Microsoft should give Windows 10 Home users the ability to defer feature updates, something that Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise users can already do.