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Microsoft does enterprise no favours when it won't explain Windows 10's schedule

Gregg Keizer | June 12, 2017
'Customers shouldn't have to figure this out,' argues analyst.


Microsoft has failed to explain to corporate customers the repercussions of the twice-a-year schedule that will deliver Windows 10 upgrades each March and September, an analyst has argued.

There are too many uncertainties about the upgrade schedule, a critical part of Microsoft's "Windows as a service" model, said Michael Cherry, analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

"Customers shouldn't have to figure this out," Cherry said, referring to unanswered questions he had after participating in an online "Ask Me Anything"-style discussion that Microsoft hosted two weeks ago.

"We shouldn't even be having this conversation about, 'Maybe they mean this, or maybe they mean that.' They should have told us, 'Here's how it works, here's the documentation, here's the TechNet article, here's everything.'"

Cherry aimed his criticism at Microsoft's announcement last month that Windows 10 feature upgrades would release each March and September, and that each upgrade would be supported for 18 months.

His first complaint was that Microsoft presented the new setup as a done deal that customers -- including enterprises that want consistency -- could bank on.

But the company has not yet demonstrated it can hit an every-six-month schedule; the three upgrades released thus far came at intervals of four months, seven months and 11 months.

Cherry questioned the company's ability to fulfill its promise.

"We need to see consistency that they're able to accomplish this," he cautioned. "For now I say that this is aspirational, not policy. They hope to do this [every March and September]. But if they don't, they don't. If it's June, it's June. Or April."

he problem is that if Microsoft doesn't make a deadline, the delay would have a domino effect.

"What happens if they slip too far?" Cherry asked. "If Microsoft misses [a release] by six months, then they've knocked six months off the time before you have to upgrade to the next."

Microsoft has said nothing about what it would do in such a case. And that's a problem, said Cherry. If Microsoft pushes back the following releases, for example, the March-and-September cadence collapses.

But if Microsoft simply resumes the tempo with the next slated release, the delay either eats into a version's support lifetime or throws off the schedule.

One likely consequence? Microsoft's promise that customers will be able to skip a Windows 10 features upgrade may be in deep trouble.

Under ideal conditions, enterprises have only a two-month migration window if they pass an intervening upgrade. Any delay in the schedule would make upgrade skipping impossible, forcing businesses to deal with each refresh, something Cherry predicted would happen.

In fact, businesses don't really get a full 18 months out of any one Windows 10 version. The first four of the 18 is, and will continue to be, designated as relatively unpolished, fit for consumers -- who act as Microsoft's unpaid testers -- but not for corporate use.


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