A new trend in software release cycles

Until recent years, the software companies have accustomed us with longer cycles between software updates (we’ve waited 5 years for Windows Server 2008, remember?!), but nowadays a new trend has emerged – faster software release cycles. To a user this translates into more application updates than he was used to in the past. However, for companies a new software update brings inevitably a series of consequences, which aren’t always pleasant. So let’s see who started this and how do corporations and home users adapt to this new trend:

Google started it, Mozilla followed… and then Microsoft!

The trend of shorter software release cycles was brought to “mainstream” by Google, when they introduced shorter release cycles for Chrome browser. After many, many, many… updates, Chrome has reached its 34.0.1847.137 m version, and now every 6 weeks (or so) a new one pops-up. You may not notice big changes and not even realise that the version has changed, as the Chrome update system is very smooth.

Many have followed the trend started by Google, and since 2011, more precisely starting with Firefox 5, Mozilla also has switched to a much faster release cycle, once every 6 or 8 weeks. Surprisingly (or not) Microsoft also caught up with this trend (their release cycles are getting shorter nowadays – even if they’re still quite far from the delivery speeds of Chrome & co.), affecting both home users and companies. Just think about how widespread these 2 Microsoft applications are (Windows and Office) and you’ll realize the impact of Microsoft’s decision.

Corporations don’t like changes

Updating software inside a corporation requires some efforts – more specifically, it involves training the employees and sometimes a new infrastructure. Well, just think about installing a new operating system (or main piece of software) for 1000 computers and the havoc that it brings.

Also, a frequent issue regarding software updates is the interaction and compatibility with other applications, so a small update to the operating system may trigger extended troubleshooting. For instance, a few years ago, many accounting firms were alarmed when some of their applications failed to run, after a Windows Automatic update took place. Of course, this wasn’t Microsoft’s fault, the IT Administrators should have tested those updates before allowing them to be deployed, but this is a clear case (out of many) that shows how an update can “ruin” your day at work and make your manager very upset.

Because security is a very important aspect for enterprise, even the smallest software update can bring a security risk, as undiscovered software vulnerabilities can be exploited by malicious users.

Consumers are always looking for new things

While corporations try to avoid changes (and to keep a stable environment), end users are more open minded when it comes to new software versions, as they can easily revert to the latest stable software release in case compatibility issues occur. Also, some of us 🙂 are always in expectancy of new features and functionalities, even for small applications – I have to admit, we tech geeks, want to tweak and adjust even the smallest things in our application.

However, the most “updates addicted” consumers are gamers, who on one hand are always looking for drivers which will boost their computer’s performance, and on the other hand they greedily desire the next patch for their favorite game, you know which…the one with orcs and wizards 🙂

A good trend or not?

Representatives from Mozilla stated that “Enterprise has never been (and I’ll argue, shouldn’t be) a focus of ours“, as a response for the faster release cycles, so it’s a clear indication that this trend was not “designed” with companies in mind. So if you are the CEO of a company, even if you may use IE, it’s still not nice to hear that Mozilla doesn’t take you into consideration.

I believe that updating your software is a must in a technology era, no one wants to stick with an outdated application, but as a company you may find yourself constrained to delay these changes as much as possible due to the reasons detailed above. As I see it, an update, or a new version, must bring an evolution, but too many updates can bring confusion (yes, the rhyme is intended 🙂 ). So instead of improving an application in small steps, do you think it would be better to follow the previous approach – deploying major releases?

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