Microsoft’s Quality Problems with Windows 10

I love Microsoft. Their Visual Studio is where I spend much of my day, and it is fantastic. Unlike some tech giants of the past, Microsoft continued to innovate even after they achieved complete dominance of their market. I also think their bad-guy reputation is undeserved, especially when Apple is the supposed good guy. (Which company is more proprietary? Which company has exorbitant prices?)

That being said, even a fan such as I am must acknowledge that this year’s updates of Windows 10 have been fiascos. Even the non-tech media have been reporting on how the October update had the side-effect of deleting some users’ files.

I’ve read a couple of really good articles on the subject, and I wanted to pass them on to you along with a few bullet points of notes I took.

Ars Technica: Microsoft’s problem isn’t how often it updates Windows–it’s how it develops it

  • At Microsoft, the old waterfall model has not changed; it has merely been condensed.
  • They develop separate features in separate branches and then have a merge phase, which is a train wreck. This is followed by a period of stabilization. Contrast this to a true agile approach of having releasable or nearly releasable code at all times.
  • Developers are allowed to integrate code they know isn’t working. The idea is to check it in now and fix it later.
  • Contrast with Google, where code cannot be merged into production until it passes rigorous tests.
  • Microsoft does have automated testing, but it takes weeks to run. As a result, code gets into the field that has not been tested. Google has “a distributed build system that builds Chrome on a thousand cores, so a full build can be done in just minutes.”
  • Microsoft laid off a huge number of QA engineers in 2014. Their work is now performed by the developers who write the code (the foxes who guard the hen-house?) and by the millions of members of the Windows Insider program.
  • Windows Insiders did report the file-deletion problem months before the bug was released, but as we’ll see in the next article, there were systemic reasons why the bug was ignored.

Thurrott: Microsoft Has A Software Quality Problem

  • The file-deletion bug was obviously very serious, but it did not occur widely. As a result, the reports of it did not get many up-votes in the Feedback Hub.
  • “Important issues like these are often buried under thousands of other general feedback like ‘Make File Explorer look more modern’ or ‘Add Acrylic to File Explorer’.” Feedback Hub’s user interface did not elevate the truly important items for Microsoft’s attention.

That last part is especially interesting to me because lack of attention to the user interface happens to be the #1 cause of recent defects at my company, too! It’s good to know that I can make the same mistakes the big boys do.

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