Microsoft expands Windows 10 release notes, but experts want more, much more

Microsoft expands Windows 10 release notes, but experts want more, much more

Company adds sentence-long descriptions of major changes included in an update after customer demands for more info

Microsoft yesterday touted new release notes, and a listing of past updates, for Windows 10, saying that it is providing the additional information customers had demanded.

Experts agreed that the change is a good start, but want more than Microsoft has offered. "It's a step in the right direction," said Chris Goettl, program product manager for patch management vendor Shavlik. "It's great to see Microsoft react at all. But I don't think it's enough for what people were asking for."

Microsoft saw it differently, and cast the slightly-expanded release notes as the answer to customers' concerns.

"In response to ... feedback, we're providing more details about the WIndows 10 updates we deliver through Windows Update," Microsoft said in an unsigned piece introducing the OS's update history.

Customers have asked for more information about what each Windows 10 cumulative update contains since those updates debuted last summer. Users were dismayed by the brevity of Microsoft's descriptions, which usually were limited to phrases such as, "includes non-security-related changes to enhance the functionality of Windows 10 through new features and improvements" or the even shorter "includes improvements to enhance the functionality of Windows 10."

In August and October, petitions on Windows 10's User Voice -- Microsoft's now-defunct feature request forum -- and on, asked the Redmond, Wash. company to get specific about the changes in each update.

Microsoft responded in October. "We will be improving our documentation of what has changed within any individual update," Terry Myerson, the chief of Microsoft's operating system and devices group, plegded in an Oct. 29 post to a company blog.

More than three months later, the improvement consisted of short descriptions in a bullet list of changes in the latest Windows 10 updates, which were released Tuesday.

"Fixed issues with authentication, update installation, and operating system installation," read the first of nine bullet points for the February cumulative update to Windows 10 version 1511. "Fixed issue with Microsoft Edge browser caching visited URLs while using InPrivate browsing," stated the second.

Four of the nine items in the list were related to Windows 10 security updates Microsoft released the same day. Those updates were backed up by lengthy "bulletins" -- a standard for Microsoft's security patches -- and so were essentially one-sentence summaries of information that had been provided previously.

Goettl noted, however, one accomplishment of the short summaries. "I think they achieved one thing," Goettl said in an interview. "There's more information in one location. Before, it was a mess to find anything, and you couldn't find non-security things at all."

Others also looked on the bright side.

"May I graciously say that it's a start," said Susan Bradley in an email reply to questions. "At least, unlike before, it gives us a hint to the non-security improvements that are coming each month."

Bradley's opinion carries weight: The computer network and security consultant was the one who had launched the User Voice and petitions in August and October. Bradley is best known in Windows circles for her expertise on Microsoft's patching processes. She writes on the topic for the Windows Secrets newsletter and moderates the mailing list, where business IT administrators discuss update tradecraft.

But like Goettl, Bradley wants more from Microsoft than a bulleted list.

"It certainly is more information than what we had," Bradley said. "[But] it definitely has room for improvement."

"There will be more 'asks,'" predicted Goettl in his interview, conducted before Computerworld received Bradley's comments. "People will want more depth on what changes are occurring. Just knowing that there is a behavioral change [to the OS or a component] isn't enough. We want to know how this is going to change for our users? How will it affect the help desk? So Microsoft's not there yet."

Bradley echoed that.

"I see too many people say, 'But most users of computers don't care what gets installed on their PCs each Patch Tuesday,'" Bradley contended. "The IT administrators and users I represent do care. One should never dumb down communication for a group of people that are in charge of change."

Also on Wednesday, Microsoft published a list of the updates issued thus far for Windows 10 versions 1507 and 1511 -- the July original and the November refresh, respectively -- and another that marked the current versions on each of the three release tracks, or in the company's vocabulary, the release "branches."

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