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Mechanics of the Upcoming Win8.1 Upgrade

I found a fascinating article on this weekend. If you can get past its enormous title “Windows 8.1 ‘GA Rollup A’ update will finalize the Windows 8.1 code, comes with fixes” there’s some useful and interesting substance to the story as well. In fact, this story goes a long way toward explaining the mechanics of how code changes can follow in the wake of the RTM (release to manufacturing) version of Windows 8.1 that became available in early September (9/9 on MSDN, a few days earlier to the OEMs).


Shorter dev-cycles require interesting final release maneuvers, including a last-minute “update to the upgrade!”
[Image Credit: Shutterstock 151265540]

The story reports that Microsoft will release an update to the update called “GA Rollup A” that will accompany the actual release bits for Windows 8.1 (presumably, the same as the aforementioned RTM release). This will take the nearly-finished RTM version and add the necessary changes, fixes, and finishing touches that have followed in the wake of last month’s RTM release. According to WinBeta, the roll-up is about 200 MB in size for x64, and 100 MB or thereabouts for x86 and ARM versions, and is said to “address bugs and various components throughout the operating system.” The GA rollup may or may not appear in tandem with the release of  8.1 to update channels on October 17/18, or it may follow a day or two later.

What we’re seeing here is, I think, the way that future Windows releases will be orchestrated to better accommodate the new short-cycle approach for major Windows versions, which Microsoft has said will occur on a more-or-less annual cycle going forward. Given such a compressed timeframe, developers will need whatever time interval is available to them between RTM push and the following GA date, to keep polishing the latest release, to fix bugs, and to slide whatever last-minute additions and enhancements can make it into the OS before the lock-down date for the GA release is imposed.

Will this have an effect on OS stability, reliability and quality? I’m not convinced that a short schedule and working up to the deadline has to mean more such problems are inevitable. But you can bet IT professionals and service providers (especially those in the “Desktop as a Service” business) will be watching the upcoming cycle with more than usual interest. It will no doubt set the tone for how quickly (and enthusiastically) such organizations jump onto new Windows releases in the future, and how soon they will commit themselves to rolling out such releases to their user bases thereafter.

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