Microsoft Windows 7: Can Closed Source March Forward?
Microsoft expects to share Windows 7 alpha code during its Professional Developers Conference in October. That got The VAR Guy thinking: Does the old closed-source model of bug chasing and alpha, beta and gold product development releases still work?
During the 1990s, The VAR Guy followed Microsoft’s alpha and beta builds very closely. He was running Windows 4.0 “Chicago” long before that operating system was finally branded as Windows 95. Each major Windows upgrade became a longer and longer journey: Microsoft would write some code and release a build; testers would run the build and report bugs back to Microsoft; and the circle of life would continue until the Windows upgrade was “good enough” to go Gold (i.e., sent to manufacturing).
But there’s a flaw in Microsoft’s model. Testers — ranging from customers to third-party developers — experience the bugs. But only Microsoft can go in, check the code and actually fix the bug.
Experiencing a bug is the easy part. When a system freezes or crashes, you know it’s time to document the problem. But finding and fixing the root cause of the bug is an expensive, time consuming process. And Microsoft cannot afford to hire an infinite number of developers to chase every last bug.
In stark contrast, chasing bugs and fixing them in the open source world is far easier because every set of eyeballs potentially has access to the source code.
For nearly a decade, Microsoft has kicked around the idea of making Windows upgrades more modular. Instead of a big, massive upgrade every few years, we’d get more regular updates — something akin to how Canonical delivers regular enhancements to Ubuntu every few months.
But can Microsoft really get more modular — and more efficient — using the closed source development model?