Some developers cry foul at Microsoft's new Windows 8.1 RTM release policies

Microsoft's decision to officially keep access to the RTM version of Windows 8.1 away from everyone but OEMs is not sitting well with a number of software developers who have been used to getting earlier RTM versions of Windows, ahead of time so they can work on their projects before the OS is generally released to the public.

Some of those developers have taken to Microsoft's Windows blog and posted up their feelings on the matter in the news comments. One statement, from "brianjsw", sums up the reaction of many of those software creators:

Seriously.... has Microsoft fallen off its rocker?  Windows 8/8.1 is nothing without the support of developers.  Microsoft cannot responsibly consider its product as fully tested and ready for release to the general public until your third party developers have had at least a month in advance to test their applications against it.  This decision is yet another that leaves me questioning the judgement of Microsoft's current management.

Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc posted up a few comments in that same thread that defended the company's position on the matter, stating, "We are continuing to put the finishing touches on Windows 8.1 to ensure a quality experience at general availability for (all) customers." He also posted up a link to another Windows blog post that is supposed to give developers resources to work on Windows 8.1 apps. However, those resources are of preview builds, including of Windows 8.1 itself as well as Visual Studio 2013.

Another developer, "BAV0", wrote that he understood Microsoft's reasoning behind this decision, in that the company wants Windows 8.1 to be perfect and that they don't want any bad publicity about the OS ahead of time. However, he added that was still not a good enough reason to keep the RTM build away from software creators. He wrote:

... we pay thousands for MSDN access so we can test our software/apps properly, early testing, before GA, is an important part of that process! We don't care about a couple of bugs in your OS, we about bug in our software. Most of us actually want to support Windows 8.1, a lot of us want to get apps ready for the awesome 8.1 features, but we can't properly do that unless we get the RTM bits before the public gets the Windows 8.1 update!

Of course, some developers could just decide to download and use the pirated RTM builds of Windows 8.1 that are roaming the Internet as we speak. Indeed, one of the most recent comments on Microsoft's blog even mentions Neowin's own coverage of Windows 8.1 leaked builds, telling Microsoft, "Bravo! You really thought this through didn't you?"

It would seem that Microsoft's changes surrounding the release of Windows 8.1 RTM are running contrary to what CEO Steve Ballmer himself said when he made his now famous speech supporting software developers:

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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I believe that there is still some work to do in the WinRT environment. The RTM was only signed off because the hardware partners were waiting to test their drivers and devices.

I'm pretty sure that we will see new devices (maybe even the new Surface) in October.

Why can't MS release a preview version that they then update as they move towards RTM so that all these intelligent developers can do all their testing on practically the same system, oh wait...

Because there's no way of knowing if a preview release will perform the same way as the RTM. All it takes is a single like of code added, or if you're using PHP, the difference between == and === and it could take down your entire app if it's in the wrong place.

Nothing new here, Windows 8 was part of a new enterprise for Microsoft: Spit on your devs and customers to please the tinkertoy crowd.

Point very well made. The "tinkertoy crowd" was an excellent reference, most especially for those of us older than 35. The younger crowd wouldn't understand, never having had the sublime enjoyment of playing with a set of Tinkertoys.

unlike most of the hard time MSFT gets from the press, which 99% of the time is just pro-google/apple driven agenda, full of errors, lies and just FUD, this is actually a real problem.

Devs, and as a dev myself, need to test very large enterprise systems on 8.1 BEFORE our customers upgrade. we already have about 20% of our customer base running win 8 in some capacity. It's a hit with tablets as they are far superior for business than ipads/and droid tabs. However come release day, we'll scramble to test things which like many said, make the MSDN subscription pointless. We're even a gold certified ISV partner and get most of MSDN for free. Yet you'd think MSFT would treat their gold certified partners better. After all, we're the reason MSFT is in the enterprise to begin with.

Because developers never use a beta/leaked version

/s

For me, MS is justifying a problem that never existed.

Anyways, what is more important, is Windows 8.1 is backward compatible with Windows 8, i.e. developers should (will) focus to develop tools for windows 8 instead of windows 8.1

Brony said,
Because developers never use a beta/leaked version

/s

For me, MS is justifying a problem that never existed.

Anyways, what is more important, is Windows 8.1 is backward compatible with Windows 8, i.e. developers should (will) focus to develop tools for windows 8 instead of windows 8.1

shows your complete ignorance on this (and other topics). Windows 8.1 is a real OS. not like the android toys and iOS crippled ware. It has to run very heavy enterprise apps such as ERP systems, engineering apps, etc. These apps NEED to be tested ahead of time because MSFT ALWAYS breaks something with large service packs such as these. Come release day, customers update to 8.1 and their app breaks. They will not call MSFT, for if they do, MSFT will tell them to call us. And we'll be under the gun to fix these problems on day zero, instead of having 30-60 days to get it done to ensure customers experience a smooth transition.

you may say, "backwards compatible" as if it has never broken apps. Backwards compatible doesn't mean 100% and MSFT never made such statement. It merely means mostly backwards compatible.

Brony said,
...For me, MS is justifying a problem that never existed...
What problem are they trying to fix?

I have an MSDN account through work. Our code has been tested running on 8 and 8.1 preview -- there's been no bugs reported related to OS changes in 8. There were some issues when 7 came out, with how UI scaling was handled, but nothing since and much of our code is old, from the late 90s to early 00s, written in Delphi 5/6, meaning it was targeted at WinAPI from Win98/2k. I really think that those who are complaining are just making noise, because it's not that big of a deal considering the availability of the 8.1 preview.

Yes, but 8.1 changes things such that even targeting 8.0 may not be enough.
In my own app there was a breaking bug in the 8.1 preview that didn't cause a problem in 8.0. Now the fix was simple and I could push a version to the Win8 store that also worked on 8.1 quite quickly, but the problem here is I won't know if 8.1 RTM has any other minor changes that break things until release day so any of my users that update on day 1 *may* get a broken product.

It is an avoidable problem too, Microsoft have all the developer ID's in their system so there is likely no reason they couldn't release the RTM bits via the store to just those users with developer IDs.

That said the lack of information regarding VS2013 release is annoying too, the tools should be available prior to help us make better use of the features, but this is less of an issue.

If I have one major concern though as an app developer it is how Microsoft intend to stage this. Using the Store is a great idea, but I can't tell you how many people I've seen with Win8 laptops where the Store update counter is in the high teens because they've never run an update.
In most cases people didn't know what the counter meant and didn't spot the 'Updates ..' link in the top right when they did access the Store.
This is an issue because Microsoft's position on version co-existence is that once 8.1 is released developers should just deploy 8.1 versions of their app because everyone will have 8.1 as the upgrade path is 'frictionless via the store' (or words to that effect). I'm not convinced and I think most app developers would be best to continue building for the 8.0 lowest common denominator until we get some actual update stats from Microsoft.

One thing is for sure, this will be a learning experience for both Microsoft and their developer ecosystem.

MrChris2000 said,
Yes, but 8.1 changes things such that even targeting 8.0 may not be enough...
Winforms development is less likely to be an issue, which for me is why there's been little to no problem. WinRT is a totally different story.

MrChris2000 said,
...I can't tell you how many people I've seen with Win8 laptops where the Store update counter is in the high teens because they've never run an update...
Aren't they going to have auto-updates from the Store in 8.1?

ahinson said,
I have an MSDN account through work. Our code has been tested running on 8 and 8.1 preview -- there's been no bugs reported related to OS changes in 8. There were some issues when 7 came out, with how UI scaling was handled, but nothing since and much of our code is old, from the late 90s to early 00s, written in Delphi 5/6, meaning it was targeted at WinAPI from Win98/2k. I really think that those who are complaining are just making noise, because it's not that big of a deal considering the availability of the 8.1 preview.

As it happens, Windows 8.1 introduces huge changes in the way DPI scaling works (per-monitor DPI settings - apps are rescaled when dragged to a monitor with a different DPI, no more log-off required to change settings, a new window message to handle, etc.).

http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkID=307061

Quppa said,

As it happens, Windows 8.1 introduces huge changes in the way DPI scaling works (per-monitor DPI settings - apps are rescaled when dragged to a monitor with a different DPI, no more log-off required to change settings, a new window message to handle, etc.).

http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkID=307061

This is for users who are using multiple monitors with differing resolutions (dpi). This might be an issue for some, our app is for internal use and will never be used in this scenario. I do get your point though.

Edited by ahinson, Aug 28 2013, 1:45pm :

ahinson said,
This is for users who are using multiple monitors with differing resolutions. This might be an issue for some, our app is for internal use and will never be used in this scenario. I do get your point though.

Desktop programs should handle the new WM_DPICHANGED message (and refresh their UI) as users can change the system DPI without logging out - this is an issue even without multiple monitors. It's not something that will happen often, of course, and I'll be surprised if many programs are updated to support the new APIs.

neonspark said,

shows your complete ignorance on this (and other topics). Windows 8.1 is a real OS. not like the android toys and iOS crippled ware.

WHATS WRONG WITH YOU?. sheesh!. I am not a fanboy (or lame*ss boy), i can say f*ck ms, f*ck apple and f*ck google, can you say the same?.

For any developer purpose, Windows 8.1 is Windows 8 SERVICE PACK 1. And the kernel version is just a number. Windows 8.1 indeed bring some changes but it is not that it will break some pre-windows 8.1 application (unless the developer is using some special non supported api / hack).

Quppa said,
Desktop programs should handle the new WM_DPICHANGED message (and refresh their UI) as users can change the system DPI without logging out - this is an issue even without multiple monitors. It's not something that will happen often, of course, and I'll be surprised if many programs are updated to support the new APIs.
You're right. They can just log off. Problem solved.

Wow. How can something be RTM yet require changes so developers cannot get it early? It shouldn't be RTM yet if they plan on making massive changes still to where developers will not be able to use it yet. Was 8.1 rushed and not ready? What does that say to the consumers?

xWhiplash said,
Wow. How can something be RTM yet require changes so developers cannot get it early? It shouldn't be RTM yet if they plan on making massive changes still to where developers will not be able to use it yet. Was 8.1 rushed and not ready? What does that say to the consumers?

consumers don't care as they are not responsible for testing apps.

I as a consumer do care. I do not develop 8.1 apps, yet this clearly shows 8.1 is not ready yet even though it is RTM. So I will not get it for a while.

Jarrichvdv said,
RTM does not mean it's finished.

Actually it does. RTM = Release to Manufacturer aka. this is the version that will be released on CDs so it better be a finished version - that's actually the whole point about RTM…

Seriously, what is WRONG with Microsoft these days? They are making so many short sighted decisions in every area of their business. Technet subs withdrawal, Surface product forecasting, Windows 8 UI, Xbone, the list goes on. Lets hope the upcoming reshuffle and new leadership introduce a new way of doing things. They also desperately need a new PR agency. Their marketing of Surface and Windows 8, among others, has just been awful.

With regards to their comment on their Windows blog:
"our reasons are explained in the above blog post. We are continuing to put the finishing touches on Windows 8.1 to ensure a quality experience at general availability for (all) customers."

How does that affect IT Pros? There is no reason why Technet/MSDN paying subscribers should not get the RTM now. Microsoft are seriously damaging their relationship with their product evangelists, IT professionals. Stop shooting yourselves in the foot MS, it's not as if Windows 8 has a good reputation in business as it is! I'm sure trying to curb piracy is a big part of the Technet subs withdrawal but it is completely and utterly short sighted.

Edited by Squuiid, Aug 28 2013, 12:33pm :

What a bone-head move by Microsoft. I can't think of anything they gain by doing this. The first quote in this article is absolutely right. Windows 8 would be nothing without 3rd party support.

If 8.1 is RTM, then why aren't devs getting it yet/soon?
If there IS extra development that MS want to do - why is it RTM?

Either way, it doesn't make sense...

Yea, not releasing it to devs is stupid. MS telling them to test on a 2 month old preview release is stupid as well. Release it to devs so they can make sure their apps are working 100% when 8.1 gets released to everyone else. This is not the time to start ****ing off devs, who pretty much make or break the OS.

techbeck said,
Yea, not releasing it to devs is stupid. MS telling them to test on a 2 month old preview release is stupid as well. Release it to devs so they can make sure their apps are working 100% when 8.1 gets released to everyone else. This is not the time to start ****ing off devs, who pretty much make or break the OS.

They should have fixed the problems with their software at the preview stage, Developers of business applications like Acronis are painfully slow at supporting new editions, Most of them just sit there with their thumb in their ass until it RTM's and then release a working version half a year later.

Its got to change. But this delay isn't helping either, I doubt ESET will have fixed their software from killing 2012 R2 by October.

Close circuit the development and maintain and bug fixes before GA is a good thing but this step is also beyond my own comprehension what benefit did the MSDN and Technet users got at the end? A Simple Banana!!!

Dot Matrix said,
Hell, the build has already leaked. Start you VMs, and have fun. The only one loosing out here is Microsoft.

It's not just about getting 8.1. It's the tooling around that like VS13. We had RTM versions of these pre-GA for Win8 so expected the same for 8.1.

I don't think there's a huge difference between Windows 8 & 8.1, So those developers who are crying to get their hand on 8.1 before release to public should chill down.

That is a pretty **** poor excuse though. There are a lot of under the hood changes (hello, we did jump from kernel version 6.2 to 6.3 between 8 and 8.1) that could affect any application in any way.

They (Microsoft) said that the codebase was much improved for reliability and is now on par to the Windows 7 codebase. Testing needs to be performed so that the software developers can guarantee that those applications will work. Otherwise the consumers and customers of various products start bashing their software companies that they couldn't support it on "day one".

Sadly I have to agree with the Rude one. There are enough changes in IE11 and the Kernel to warrant early access.

That said, there are some major leaks and obnoxious people (cough cough above) that just want to trash Microsoft for Spite.

So I can understand, Microsoft not wanting more Unjust reviews.

Xahid said,
I don't think there's a huge difference between Windows 8 & 8.1, So those developers who are crying to get their hand on 8.1 before release to public should chill down.

There is a huge amount of changes and additions to the 8.1 Api. Some of these aren't working as expected. You can't release software based on the new 8.1 Api without testing and working around any expected and unexpected issues.

Xahid said,
I don't think there's a huge difference between Windows 8 & 8.1, So those developers who are crying to get their hand on 8.1 before release to public should chill down.

As a matter of fact you are wrong. There are dramatic changes regarding to the screen sizes for all apps. In windows 8 there were only full mode and snap mode with an addition of two third view. Now there is free mode, multi app snap mode. Multi monitor support has changed dramatically, there are tons of new apis exposed. And so on...

You're wrong. And adding to the comments above me, theres also over 500 new API's. Some stuff isn't working correctly in the Preview either, so that cant be used to test properly.

There is a huge difference between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 for developers, because Microsoft is introducing a new model of Windows 8.1 apps. So I think I understand developers frustration.
Thanks,

Xahid said,
I don't think there's a huge difference between Windows 8 & 8.1, So those developers who are crying to get their hand on 8.1 before release to public should chill down.

This is, by definition, a catch-22.

Microsoft wants to deliver a quality product. Yes, Windows 8 is similar, but not exactly like 8.1. They're different, this isn't horseshoes or hand-grenades. So Microsoft will continue to test until General Availability. I respect that.

However, an operating system is NOTHING without applications. The only things that Microsoft will test with, are it's own in-house, Microsoft-branded applications. This is a very distinct line where Microsoft is no longer caring about the quality of the build when it comes to outside developers, who in turn have to not only test their apps, but hey, they might actually assist in uncovering a bug in the product before release.

It really doesn't sit right.

MSDN is sold on the principle of "pre-production testing". This breaks their own philosophies, and puts developers, officially, second.