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I think both journalists didn’t read Microsoft’s blog post—and its main point that Microsoft obviously changed its update strategy once again—carefully enough. But before I go into this, I want to say a word or two about Thurrott’s hurt feelings.
Obviously, he and Foley were wounded in their pride. Why do reputed journalists suddenly spread rumors? It seems, in their view, they didn’t spread rumors because they have a tacit agreement with Microsoft about publishing information they regularly receive from so-called “unnamed sources.” Thus, we’re not dealing with information leaks here but with an unofficial release of official information.
I think this case demonstrates nicely that this kind of PR is outdated. In the print era, companies had no other option than to give favored journalists tips about upcoming product releases. That way, the company could get the word out and the journalists would be kindly disposed towards the company.
However, nowadays, large companies such as Microsoft can just post news in their own blogs, which are read by all IT news journalists anyway. Considering that decisions can be changed internally much more quickly than in former times makes unofficially released official information dangerous. Readers of such news sites are often misled, not because those unnamed sources were badly informed but simply because the company had good reasons to change former decisions.
Hence, unofficially released official information is indeed nothing more than a rumor. Information is either official or unofficial. There is really nothing in between. If it is unofficial information, it is a rumor as long as it isn’t officially confirmed. IT pros should be aware of this and never base their decisions on such rumors. Moreover, it is often a waste of time to read such articles. Even though I am a blogger, whenever the term “unnamed sources” appears in an article, I usually stop reading.
Now, let me get to my second point—that is, about the claim that the Windows 8.1 August updates are actually Update 2. This is the paragraph in Microsoft’s blog post that caused the stir:
With the above in mind, rather than waiting for months and bundling together a bunch of improvements into a larger update as we did for the Windows 8.1 Update, customers can expect that we’ll use our already existing monthly update process to deliver more frequent improvements along with the security updates normally provided as part of “Update Tuesday.” So despite rumors and speculation, we are not planning to deliver a Windows 8.1 “Update 2.”
Mary Jo Foley believes that because “Update 2” is in quotes here, Brandon LeBlanc (the author of the post) just talks about the name and not the Update 2 itself. Or, in other words, Microsoft just renamed Update 2 as “August updates.” In my opinion, this interpretation is wrong.
The important sentence in this paragraph is the first one. The reason why Microsoft removed the “1” from Update 1 is because of a strategy change. After this it was clear that an Update 2 would never see the world, even though, as Thurrott mentioned in the videocast, some Microsoft officials were still internally talking about an “Update 2.”
You have probably noticed that the new features included in the August updates don’t compare to the importance of the changes in Update 1. Instead of delivering bundles of updates with new features every few months, Microsoft will now add new functionality in the existing monthly update process. Thus, Microsoft has now decided to release new features at an even faster pace. Since the “1” in “Update 1” was stripped shortly after Nadella was appointed as new CEO, I guess it was one of his first decisions to accelerate feature releases for Windows. Therefore, LeBlanc talks not about a name change here but about a strategy change. If Microsoft really planned an Update 2, it would have been released with more features and a later time.
From my point of view, this new strategy makes a lot of sense. Why wait for the release of new features when the code is already done? This release method was appropriate in the times when updates had to be released on CD-ROMs. Thanks to the Internet and automatic update mechanisms, software companies can now push out new features immediately after the final tests have been completed.
Best of all, conservative IT departments have to adapt to this new situation and get used to upgrading their infrastructure on a monthly basis. The times when IT departments could think in decades are over.
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Another way of seeing this development is that on-premises IT now reaches the release cycle speed of the cloud. Have you ever heard of Office 365 SP1 or Azure Update 1? I haven’t.