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Microsoft Declines to Make Windows 8.1 RTM Bits Available Early to Developers

The decision infuriates many developers, who won't be able to upgrade apps before GA.

Windows 8.1 has been released to manufacturing, according to press reports, and should be available to the general public on Oct. 18. As it turns out, that will also be the first day developers can get their hands on it, and it's causing an uproar in that community.

Antoine LeBlond, corporate vice president of Windows Program Management, made the announcement on a Microsoft blog today. "This is the date when Windows 8.1 will be broadly available for commercial customers with or without volume licensing agreements, our broad partner ecosystem, subscribers to MSDN and TechNet, as well as consumers," he wrote.

Developers, however, are used to getting products much earlier, when they can update their apps to work with the new version as soon as it's released. That could cause problems with their customers' applications, if there are incompatibilities between the Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 versions that break functionality. It's a point being driven home by developers on many fronts, including Microsoft blogs, personal blogs and Twitter.

One poster responding to LeBlond's announcement, self-identified as "IzsakSVK", summed up much of the anger:

"Releasing finished software to Technet and MSDN subscribers so late? This really adds value to the subscriptions we are paying for. How are we supposed to test our software for Windows 8.1? The day it will be automatically installed on users' machines? So we - software developers - can take blame that applications don't work on Windows 8.1?"

Another, "BAV0", said it should be part of the expensive MSDN subscription:

"...we pay thousands for MSDN access so we can test our software/apps properly, early testing, before GA, is an important part of that process! We don't care about a couple of bugs in your OS, we [care] about bug in our software. Most of us actually want to support Windows 8.1, a lot of us want to get apps ready for the awesome 8.1 features, but we can't properly do that unless we get the RTM bits before the public gets the Windows 8.1 update!"

LeBlond, responding to some of the unhappiness, pointed to a blog entry from the Windows App Builder Blog, which recommends among other things that developers use Windows 8.1 Preview as a guide for updating their apps. But that isn't good enough for some developers. For example, "13xforever" said "And what about security apps? Crypto providers? Anti-virus software? Shell extensions? Filesystem filters? All these require very tight integration and cannot be tested with Preview to guarantee a compatibility with the final version."

Wally McClure, a developer and columnist for Visual Studio Magazine, Tweeted his unhappiness:  "MSFT won't give out Win 8.1 RTM to MSDN before October 18. Need any more proof that MSFT has lost it's way?"

Another dissatisfied Tweeter was Robert Walraven: "Microsoft decides not to allow developers #msdn access to the GM of Windows 8.1 until GA. Nice job #Microsoft #fail".

It's not the first time recently that Microsoft has given its army of developers reason to complain. Earlier this month, the MSDN Web site underwent a redesign, which many developers felt was more focused on marketing for Windows Store app development than helping them with their day-to-day needs. Ironically, it's also a group Microsoft should be working overtime to keep happy, since it needs a larger ecosystem of apps for its Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 platforms. They continue to struggle, in part because competing platforms like iOS and Android have much richer ecosystems.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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