It's official: Windows 8.1 Update 2 is a dud

Microsoft confirms minor improvements in Windows 8.1 Update 2, which raises the question: Why all the infernal secrecy?

Windows 8.1 Update 2 will drop next week, and it's officially a nonevent.

If you've been following along, you know that Windows 8.1 Update 2 has gone through quite a litany of rumored changes. Originally envisioned (at least by the press) as another forced upgrade for all Windows 8.1 users, similar to the botched Windows 8.1 Update 1/KB 2919355, by early this week most of the dogs had been called off and best guesses placed Update 2 in the "meh" category.

Yesterday Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc confirmed precisely how "meh" the Update has become: It will provide minor touchpad improvements, Miracast for 32-bit applications, and a reduced number of prompts for SharePoint logon. I can add, based on old leaked screenshots, that there will also be support for the ruble character as a recognized currency symbol.

Sorry, but it doesn't get much more "meh" than that.

The funny part of LeBlanc's discourse was that he went to great lengths to explain how Microsoft is working as usual, with patches every month (actually, twice a month), to cover minor improvements to Windows and Office. That's great. Long may it wave.

However I'm not sure that the folks at Microsoft understand the knock-on effect of their painful secrecy, even for something as simple as a Black Tuesday update. I know of at least two people who had to rearrange their vacations because of rumors of impending horror next Tuesday. On the one hand, you could say that those people deserved to have their summers disrupted because they (more accurately, their bosses) believed the early rumors. On the other hand, you have to ask what Microsoft possibly had to gain by playing this so close to the chest. It isn't like a competing OS vendor is going to gain a competitive advantage by knowing Microsoft's Miracast implementation plans.

Why all the infernal secrecy, Microsoft? Do you really expect to sell more copies of Windows by yanking your customers' chains? What would be wrong with telling us, in broad terms, what to expect and when? I know you were burned by Longhorn pre-announcements -- especially WinFS -- many years ago, but hasn't the game changed considerably since then?

Case in point: Terry Myerson, unequivocably stated in his Build presentation that "we will make this [tiled Start menu, Metro apps on the desktop] available to all Windows 8.1 users as an update." I figure about a billion Windows customers would be interested in learning more. Unlike WinFS, both of those features are doable, although I suspect they're more difficult to implement than they first appear.

Wouldn't it be great if somebody officially let us all in on the current planning to meet that obligation? I'm not talking about formal commitments and signed contracts; I'd just like to see a talk about what versions are currently envisioned and roughly when they'll be available, give or take a year.

Microsoft might actually sell some Windows 8 machines if they came with a promise to be upgradeable to the new Start/ModernMix interface.

It's hard to believe that any of Microsoft's competitors would gain much of an advantage by seeing a road map. And I bet a whole bunch of developers would take it to heart.

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