Free updates and Microsoft are not something that you usually see in the same sentence. Starting this year, however, Microsoft may start having a change of heart.
At its annual BUILD developer conference, Microsoft announced that it's ditching its old method of releasing updates to software every two to three years. Instead, it will be approaching software updates like the rest of the industry does with weekly updates.
Microsoft Office stands to gain the most from this move as the software company will commit to releasing minor weekly updates to the software that addresses issues in a more timely manner. Before this, Microsoft would release major updates every three to four years with minor bug fix updates releasing every few months.
Office isn't the only software that's getting weekly updates either. Microsoft says that its other apps on Windows 8, including Outlook and SkyDrive, will receive updates on a more consistent basis than before.
Of course, moving to a faster update cycle will change how Microsoft collects feedback. In ages past, Microsoft would gather feedback from its users before making decisions that might prove unpopular. Microsoft will obviously still use this feedback in the future, but it will also be using hard data in its decision making. In other words, it will evaluate how people use its software to determine what changes, if any, need to be made in future updates.
What remains to be seen is if Microsoft will move to the rumored annual upgrade cycle for Windows 8. That seems to be the case at the moment with the release of Windows 8.1 later this year, but that could be a one-off designed to address concerns users had with the original Windows 8. We've no idea if Microsoft will continue the trend by releasing Windows 8.2, or whatever it will be called, in 2014. There are good arguments for and against an annual update cycle so Microsoft might be taking it slow for now to see the reaction to an update like Windows 8.1.
Windows 8.1 and a future of free Microsoft updates is available now in a free preview form. It will officially launch later this year as a free update. We'll hopefully know the full extent of Microsoft's plans for its software by then.[h/t: Bloomberg]