At Microsoft, quality seems to be job none

Microsoft has blown my mind with its Windows 10 update, and not in a good way

quality assurance

I actually had been feeling optimistic about Windows 10. No, really. You can look it up. I mean, I didn’t think Windows 10 was the greatest thing since the advent of the Internet, but it did strike me as a solid replacement for the lamentable Windows 8.

But that was before I got a notice that if I wanted to update my Windows 10 Technical Preview by applying one of December’s security updates, I would have to uninstall Office. What the …

Making matters even weirder, this security update was to fix 14 vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 11.

Can someone tell me how that makes sense? Anyone?

What’s that? I should calm down because this is beta software we’re talking about? Look, I know beta software. Been there, wrote that, built the tests, blew systems to smithereens, wrote the reviews and got the T-shirt. But beta or not, how in the world can a patch to the Web browser lock up the operating system when you have an office suite installed?

Yes, I know that Microsoft likes to have everything glued together like a kindergarten art project gone berserk, but this is ridiculous. Having been a Unix guy for decades, I’m accustomed to a philosophy of using simple programs and then building applications up from them. What Microsoft was requiring — get the patch, uninstall Office, install the hotfix, and then reinstall Office — makes my skin crawl. To me, it’s just unacceptable, even in beta.

And truth be known, Microsoft has been making a lot of quality assurance mistakes lately, in production software.

In November, an Exchange security patch had to be pulled at the last minute because “OWA [Outlook Web Access] files will be corrupted by installation of a Security Update.” In other words, a security patch would have knocked out your Outlook Web users. That was bad. But even worse, Microsoft pulled the update again, this time for Exchange Server 2010. Then, on Dec. 12, it re-released it!

And in the “You can’t make this stuff up” department, a December Windows 7 update broke the ability of Windows to install and update software that includes digital signatures — including (I kid you not!) Windows 7’s own patches! Windows 7, in case you've forgotten, is currently Microsoft’s most popular operating system, and it’s far from beta. It’s been around for five years now — and Microsoft just broke its ability to update!

That’s why the “You have to make allowances for beta software” argument isn’t all that convincing in this case. When Microsoft proves unable to get its flagship programs to work well with one another, you start to wonder whether there’s a quality assurance engineer in Redmond.

It also makes me wonder what is going on underneath that newly menued Windows 10 GUI. Restoring the Start Menu to Windows should not have been complex. If Microsoft couldn’t keep it simple, I wouldn’t have had a problem if it had just bought Stardock for its Start8 product, slapped that Windows 8 menu program on Windows 8.1 and declared victory: “Windows 10! New and improved!”

After all, Start8 works. And, presumably, Microsoft could have patched the operating system under that Start Menu and the applications that run with it without any fuss or muss.

Yes, yes, I know, Windows 10 has all kinds of other improvements. Yes, yes, it will be the most secure Windows ever.


Oh, do I seem bored? It’s just that Microsoft always says the next Windows will be the most secure Windows ever, and then subsequent security patches always cover every version of Windows that’s still supported anyway.

Microsoft has got to show that it can get its own programs working together after patching without hiccups. Otherwise, Microsoft won’t have a chance of hitting its rumored Windows 10 release date of late summer/early fall 2015.

This is my dead-serious message to Microsoft: Your users need stability and a useful user interface more than they need new features.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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