Remember Steve Ballmer’s famous battle-cry of “Developers! Developers! Developers!”? Perhaps the folks over at Microsoft haven’t watched that video in recent times because the company is now facing the ire of a large portion of the very developer community that Ballmer once praised with heaps of exuberance and perspiration.
The reason for the frustrations of the Windows developer community is Microsoft’s decision to hold back the RTM (Release to Manufacturing) build of Windows 8.1, the latest update to the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, from developers and shipping it only to hardware manufacturers. In the past, RTM builds of Windows were released to developers and MSDN subscribers (along with manufacturers) well before the final version of the OS was made available for general consumption. In the case of Windows 8.1, though, Microsoft has stated that the developers will be getting the final version of the OS along with the general public on October 17.
Microsoft has said that it expects to make updates to Windows 8.1 right till the final version is released to the public and explained that was the reason for keeping the RTM build away from developers, since it was not the final build. Developers have shot back with complaints that they will be unable to test their apps and software to make sure they work properly when installed on the final version of Windows 8.1. Computerworld quotes Wes Miller, an analyst with research firm Directions on Microsoft, who underscored developer concerns, “It's all about the apps. You can't make 8.1 apps unless you have the final code."
Microsoft has countered saying that the rapid update and deployment cycle it has introduced with Windows 8 means that there have to be changes with the way updates are released for Windows. “We are moving to a world of more continuous updates delivered in-product. This rapid release schedule means our customers, including our large community of developers, are getting access to updates at a much faster pace. We are working to streamline that experience by delivering product updates through the Windows Store. For developers who want to begin building and testing apps for Windows 8.1, they already have all the tools they need using Visual Studio 2013 Preview and Windows 8.1 Preview,” reads a statement released by a Microsoft spokesperson.
However, developers have responded by pointing out the flaws in the Windows 8.1 Preview that was released on June 26 including performance issues that have yet to be fixed. ‘Flexman’ a Windows developer asked in the comments on the Microsoft blog, “"Do we code to this laggy implementation or wait for performance testing under RTM and hope everything is fixed? How is it Microsoft can develop their apps to work on RTM code yet [independent software vendors] who are supporting your platform don't get the same benefit?" Another line of criticism from developers is that by subscribing to MSDN they had assumed they would be getting the final version of Windows before it was made public, something that obviously hasn’t happened in the case of Windows 8.1 but had so in the past. It’s worth pointing out here that the minimum amount a developer has to pay for an MSDN subscription is $699 (Rs. 33,207 in India) with an annual renewal fee of $499 (Rs. 23,706 in India).
By admitting that Windows 8.1 RTM is actually not the final version (as it always has been for previous Windows versions) and still shipping it to hardware makers, Microsoft seems to have made the conscious decision to give priority to hitting its commitments with its OEM partners over its developer community. Considering how important Windows 8 is for Microsoft and how the company has propped up the OS as something that can power both traditional PCs and hybrid devices, along with tablets, with a dedicated ecosystem of apps optimized for all the various hardware, it seems strange that the company would risk pissing off such a large portion of its developer community.
I mentioned it at the beginning of this story as a joke but now it looks like Ballmer actually should make his “Developers! Developers! Developers!” video essential viewing for everyone in Microsoft’s Redmond campus, just to impart the idea of how intrinsic the developer community is for the success of Windows 8, an OS that has so far received a tepid response from consumers.
Sources: Windows Blogs (2), Computerworld, PC World, Tech Crunch