Microsoft punt on fixing the Windows Update problem – what would Steve Jobs have done?

Windows Update restarts needed to be fixed in Windows 8 and voila – Microsoft responded (to the issue not me, I’m not presumptuous). In a new blog post on their Windows 8 Development blog, Microsoft go to great pains to explain that while they know about the inconvenience that updates cause, they’re not really going to fix the core issue. This was the most disappointing post on the Windows Development blog so far because as opposed to other blog posts on there where they talk about how they are going to fix the problem, they spend this one describing a series of really crappy band aids. So the post starts out well (as usual) by defining the issue at hand and framing it properly.

When it comes to Windows Update, one of the most discussed topics is the disruptiveness of restarts in the course of automatic updating. And for good reason—restarts can interrupt you right in the middle of something important. The obvious question to ask first is why does the installation of updates even require a restart at all? Ideally, we would like all update installations to happen seamlessly in the background without a restart.
OK so that’s a good question but right after that:
But, in reality, there are situations where the installer is not able to update files because they are in use. In these cases, we need to restart your machine to complete the installation. The automatic updating experience thus needs to be able to handle cases where restarts are required.
Basically, they have introduced the problem, acknowledged it and given up on it by the end of the second paragraph! They then go on to give a bunch of stats about the different types of ways people update their PC’s and when etc. before they come to the next white flag that they throw up.
The question for us on the WU team is always “What is the best way to quickly update the PC while not being intrusive to the user?” Turns out, this is a hard question to answer, and there is no one simple answer. The challenge we faced was to find the balance between updating with speed and giving notice to the user for upcoming restarts.
They go on to detail all the ways that they will notify you gently of updates and make sure that you don’t lose our work before you restart. Once again, here’s the link, you can read the rest of it if you are so inclined. I was shocked beyond belief to read this post as I feel that Microsoft get it in so many areas but on this one, they totally have missed the mark.

The real problem is the restarts in the first place

The issue is not that it’s inconvenient for users and we want it done once a month etc etc The real issue is that I don’t want to have to restart my PC for Microsoft period. I don’t like to be told when to reboot my PC. It’s a sub par user experience to dictate how and when my machine is operated against my will. At times like this, i think of Steve Jobs and the reality distortion field people say he had. When faced with a problem like this, he would have said, fix the issue – period. I understand that this is a very complex issue and if it was easy for Microsoft to fix, they would have – I get that. My issue is that they are trying to manage expectations down rather than pushing for Windows 8 to create a better user experience going forward. I’ll speak for myself when I say once a month is too much. I expect Microsoft to find a way to update the PC when I am not using it in a seamless and non intrusive manner. I expect these process and driver updates to happen in the background with very minimal user interaction. [caption id="attachment_9845" align="alignnone" width="590"]apple ipad 2 apple ipad 2[/caption] I have an Ipad 2. I never ever turn it totally off. No seriously, NEVER, and you know what – it runs. It just works. The only updates I install are rare system updates when moving from one version of IOS to another. I want those updates. They add clear, distinct value to my experience. If I never upgraded my Ipad, it would still run just fine. This tells me that it CAN be done but it just isn’t important enough for Microsoft to dedicate the resources to.

What about Windows 8 Tablets?

The Ipad has set the standard for tablets and it from what we’re seeing, it looks like the Kindle Fire isn’t far behind. I’m curious to know if you have to reboot your Kindle fire once a month to install updates. I just don’t see how this whole system updates every month is seen as ideal for Microsoft. Who the heck wants to pick up a Tablet and see it updating and restarting? Especially when the competition don’t have that issue? Not me. If Apple have built devices that don’t need major reboots for security patches every month, that means it can be done. Now, this is the part of the post where Windows Fanboys jump in and say “It’s because the user base is so large and everyone’s writing security exploits for Windows – Microsoft have to keep updating their systems to stay ahead of the hackers.” I get that, I understand and I agree. Just abstract me from it.

What about choice?

Maybe it’s the libertarian in me but the article wasn’t clear about whether users will still be able to choose whether to check for and download updates for the PC (like we can in Windows 7) or whether these restarts will be absolutely mandatory. Once again, it just feels weird that I pay for software, start to use it and without my agreement and consent, I am entered into a (software) lifelong relationship with the software vendor with check ins every month. This can’t be the best that Redmond can do. I am saddened that there will be no major progress on this in Windows 8. Maybe we will have to wait until Windows 9 to have this problem solved. I think that Windows 8 was a good place to put a flag in the sand and fix this issue. We are expecting major things from this Operating System and people are expecting something new. I just hate to see Microsoft surrender on such a major part of the user experience its been over 10 years of clunky updates. I will never accept that this can’t be done. After all, we have to ask, what would Steve Jobs do?]]>

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