Microsoft is sending mixed signals where Windows is concerned. Weeks after announcing universal Windows apps at the Build developer conference, the company is seemingly fragmenting its platforms by killing Windows 8.1 while continuing to push Windows Phone 8.1.
Over the weekend, Microsoft desktop and application virtualization consultant Steve Thomas posted a TechNet article announcing that support and security patches for Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 RT and Windows Server 2012 R2 will cease in the next 30 days. After that point, only those who’ve installed the Windows 8.1 Update 1 or are still running Windows 8 will continue to receive updates.
“This means that Windows 8.1 users—starting [with the] patch Tuesday in May 2014 and beyond—will require this update to be installed,” Thomas wrote. “If the Windows 8.1 Update is not installed, those newer updates will be considered ‘not applicable.’ ”
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At the same time, Microsoft today announced the availability of the Windows Phone 8.1 developer preview, with a new MSDN Voice Search reference app to integrate contextual voice capabilities into Windows Phone 8.1 apps. This move to promote the building and testing of Windows Phone 8.1 apps and universal Windows apps appears to sow a divide between a platform pushing forward and a platform in disarray.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 has been wrought with installation errors, third-party software errors, and a recent SSL configuration issue. Thomas went as far as to recommend enterprise and IT users refrain from installing the update until another update is released fixing the SSL connection issue. This leaves customers who haven’t yet updated to Windows 8.1 Update 1 in limbo between an OS that will no longer be supported and a currently nonexistent update.
“Microsoft plans to issue an update as soon as possible that will correct the [SSL connection] issue and restore the proper behavior for Windows 8.1 Update KB 2919355 scanning against all supported WSUS configurations,” Thomas wrote. “Until that time, we are delaying the distribution of the Windows 8.1 Update KB 2919355 to WSUS servers. You may still obtain the Windows 8.1 Update (KB 2919355) from the Windows Update Catalog or MSDN. However, we recommend that you suspend deployment of this update in your organization until we release the update that resolves this issue.”
How all of this will affect developers is still unclear. The concept of universal Windows apps is a seamless developer application experience across desktops, tablets and smartphones. Yet without cohesiveness between Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, it remains to be seen whether apps can be truly universal until the schism is resolved.
Under the One Microsoft strategy, the Windows and Windows Phone divisions should be acting in unison, not moving in opposite directions. Windows divided against itself cannot stand.