OS Innovation Slowdown

While looking at the feedback provided by people on UserVoice for Windows Server 2016, it was interesting to see what was being asked from Microsoft. Let’s look at some of the top asks in the main categories.

Storage: Storage Replica Requirement of Datacenter Edition
The top idea for storage pertains to marketing/product packaging. It’s a bit surprising to not find an actual feature that is missing or that needs to be improved as the top demand for the storage functionality in Windows Server 2016.

Virtualization: New Integrated UI for Hyper-V
The top idea for virtualization doesn’t actually aim to improve virtualization itself but its usability. The fact that people are asking to be more productive in a GUI rather than actual new virtualization new feature is an interesting statement. People favor being more productive at managing existing functionality rather than asking for core virtualization features.

Networking: Bring load balancing to Windows Server
For networking, the top demand is something that Microsoft had already been shipping for a few years already. People just want it to be bundled with the new OS release.

Are we hitting an innovation slowdown/lack of imagination? Don’t get me wrong, there are some great things coming to Windows Server 2016 but they have a lot to do with increasing productivity and reduce costs by refining existing technology.

Let’s look at other operating systems for the fun of it.

iOS 9
– Improvements to Siri: I’d be curious to see the actual usage data for Siri…
– Apple Pay improvements: Nice to have but not something that would increase smartphone sale
– Improvements to built-in apps:
– iPad Multi-tasking: Hardly something ground breaking
– Low power mode: extend battery life by 3 hours -> still need to charge your iPhone every day (ok, 2 days for the iPhone 6 Plus)

OS X El Capitan
– Split view: They re-invented window management…
– Find your cursor: Oh my god, I shake my mouse and can now find my cursor!!
– Performance enhancements: Welcomed but not exactly a giant leap for mankind in technology.

Andoid M
– App links: Now Android knows which app to trigger for a link
– Improvement to mobile payment: Same point as iOS, not worth writing your mother about
– Fingerprint support: A nice way to standardize the implementation but not exactly out of this world technology
– Battery life improvement: A welcomed improvement but again, it’s refinement, not innovation

Windows 10
– Revamped Start Menu: A cross between Windows 7 and Windows 8 (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
– Windows Hello: Biometric login is nothing new but I think Microsoft refined/hardened it with this release
– App revamp/rewrite: Calculator has a new look!
– Game streaming: RDP RemoteFX, meet XBOX One

Looking at all this, it looks like we’re getting in a time where refinement is the target. While asking for direct customer feedback puts Microsoft in a good light marketing wise and could very well help drive sales up by better addressing customer needs, does it show signs of despair and lack of leadership in regards to technological innovation from Microsoft? By moving to a more agile and customer driven development process where customer seem to be asking for somewhat superficial changes, is Microsoft being driven in a direction where innovation and fundamental software breakthroughs will be a thing of the past? Will Microsoft paint itself in a corner where if they don’t comply to demands of the type “I want feature X to be packaged a certain way” or “I want this GUI to have this textbox” they will infuriate the very vocal user base and therefore hurt the sale of their software?

I think to foster innovation, Microsoft might need to go a step further by really extending their partnership with customers by having a more thorough understanding of what their customers are doing and how they operate. Instead of having Microsoft ask for ideas and then try to find the use case for those, it might be more beneficial to pitch problems at them and partner with them in finding the proper solution. This would ensure proper justification in building those new features. Microsoft might need a different feedback mechanism for this. It would be nice to see a consolidation/rationalization of all those feedback mechanisms in the future. Right now they seem to be using a lot of different ways:

– UserVoice
– Surveys
– Focus group with customers
– Insider App in Windows 10
– Microsoft Connect
– Support cases
– etc.

If there would be a single process/mechanism to submit feedback to Microsoft that would make approaching Microsoft more efficient and easier to interact with.

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