Editorial

It would be nice to have more visibility over the Windows development roadmap

A curvy road with pins featuring logos of Windows 10 Windows 11 and a question mark

Back in 2014, Microsoft launched the Windows Insider program around the time frame of Windows 10's first Technical Previews. Since then, the initiative has matured quite a bit thanks to an active Feedback Hub and other channels of direct communication between the public and Microsoft. Although the Windows Insider program does have its flaws too, I believe that it is a decent idea overall due to the seemingly direct conversation it invites in terms of how Windows is shaped.

That said, I would love if Microsoft goes a step further and gives the public a peek behind the curtains in terms of access to the operating system's development roadmap too. Essentially, a dedicated portal that lists the tentative features, timelines, and details about what the company is currently working on.

Yes, the Windows Insider program has its own benefits in the sense that it enables enthusiasts to test out preview versions of Windows and provide feedback to Microsoft before the OS is rolled out publicly. But it feels reactive rather than proactive in nature given how public the Windows Insider program is. It's a glorified beta test environment that is open to everyone, and that is completely fine, except that it doesn't really give the public a voice until a lot of effort has been put into features already.

Let me clarify with an example: the abhorrent Taskbar in Windows 11. It was rolled out in preview versions of Windows 11 and was almost universally detested but it still ended up making its way to the generally available version of the OS. And that's because by the time people started protesting against the downgraded feature, Microsoft had already invested too much time and effort in the Taskbar - which is actually a relic from the now-defunct Windows 10X - to backtrack and start from scratch completely. And then Microsoft scrambled to add back axed features to the Taskbar. That is what I mean by the Windows Insider program being reactionary in nature.

A Windows 10 logo with a red wrench and screwdriver next to it

Now imagine if Microsoft has a sort of a read-only Jira board that is publicly accessible. This board lists down the tentative features in development, their mockups (we already know that Microsoft spends a lot of time on this), time frames, and details about what value they will add and any related capabilities that will be deprecated.

Think of it as something similar to the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, which despite being imperfect in terms of the aforementioned details, works on the same principle: Let people know what you are working on even before a feature hits preview.

Granted that there are some drawbacks to inviting public conversation on each Windows feature and that's why I think that the board shouldn't exclusively serve the purpose of deciding what change should be made to Windows next. It could be a way to provide the public enough knowledge about the direction that Windows development is heading in through textual details and mockups and then gauge initial reaction. If it's universally negative, it might be a good idea to cater to feedback and adapt. This is how it would be proactive: assess feedback prior to full development and pivot if necessary.

A clipart of a person with a speech bubble and a Microsoft logo next to him

I believe that an approach similar to this could have avoided a lot of headache both for Microsoft engineers as well as Windows users. If people saw the mockups for the Start menu and Taskbar prior to Microsoft spending months on it and then rolling it out to users even in a preview phase, maybe we wouldn't have received such downgrades at launch - some of which still exist almost a year after the OS' launch.

A public board for the roadmap of Windows development would also give some much need transparency. We would know when enhancements like a tabbed File Explorer could tentatively arrive.

That said, I'm not claiming that this is a sure-shot solution that would solve all the problems in Windows development in one fell swoop. Product development is hard and it's an iterative process and this is why I think that the next "iteration" of the Windows Insider program could benefit from a public roadmap, even if it's on a trial basis.

This board wouldn't exist as a way for people to vote on what features Microsoft develops next, but it could provide the company some much needed initial feedback prior to the full investment of resources. The Microsoft 365 Roadmap is a great example of how to offer this level of transparency to consumers.


Do you think that a public read-only roadmap that details the direction that Windows is heading in be beneficial for the operating system's development, both in terms of transparency and investment of resources? Let us know in the comments section below!

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