Microsoft is Inexplicably Slowing Down App Updates on the Fast Ring

Posted on February 28, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 40 Comments

Microsoft is Inexplicably Slowing Down App Updates on the Fast Ring

What’s the definition of insanity again?

Excited to test newly announced features in the Groove and Movies & TV apps, I’ve been checking for those updates for days to no avail.

The reason? There is no reason. No good reason.

As you may remember, Microsoft recently announced a major update to the Groove app for Windows 10, adding a playlist sharing feature that will only work if you’re using a Windows 10 Insider build. It also announced way back on February 8 that it was adding a picture-in-picture feature, called Content Overlay, to its Movies & TV app. That app update is also available now. But again, the new functionality will only work if you’re on the Insider Preview.

Except, of course, that neither app update is appearing on any of my Insider Preview-based PCs, each of which is of course in the Fast ring in order to ensure that I’m always getting the latest OS features—via new builds—and app updates. That is, after all, the very point of Fast ring.

After days of checking for these app updates, and trying manual workarounds—involving, in one case, removing Movies & TV using PowerShell and then reinstalling—I finally took to Twitter yesterday to find out what’s up.

So this is odd. I get the new Groove and Movies & TV app versions on non-Insider Win10. But not on Insider. Why? 🙂

That smiley face indicates I am OK with this weirdness. I’m sorry I used that: I am not OK with this weirdness.

But my tweet proved that everyone else is seeing the same issue. I didn’t hear from anyone on the Fast ring who had received these app updates.

So today I get up and what do I see in my RSS feed? That Neowin’s Rich Woods has an explanation for this problem. And a workaround. Great!

Except for two issues: He does not have an explanation for this problem. And the workaround does not work.

It’s not his fault, of course.

Like me, Rich also asked on Twitter about the issue with these app updates, which Zac Bowden had pointed out to me extends to all bundled apps, including Skype Preview. Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc told Bowden that all we need to do is switch from Fast ring to Slow ring, “pick up the newer app updates,” and then go back to Fast ring. So there’s where Neowin’s workaround came from.

That sounds simple enough. But it doesn’t work. And I’ve tried this on three different PCs. But maybe the apps will arrive later today, so I’ll keep trying.

Meanwhile, I’m still wondering about the why. Why the frick would Microsoft not provide the latest app versions on the Fast ring? Given that this is the very point of the Fast ring.

PC experts! If you like to be on the cutting edge, this is the right ring for you. The Fast ring is for the more advanced people who are comfortable dealing with software bugs.

In Woods’s words, “Fast ring app updates are currently on hold … because Microsoft wants to test the versions of the apps that are included with the build.”

Now, why on earth would Microsoft want to test older app versions when new, Creators Update-specific features are available only in the newer versions?? “[I] assume that these are the versions that will ship with the Creators Update, even if they’re updated immediately after,” Woods writes.

This assertion also relies on a LeBlanc tweet, of course. “We need testing coverage on app versions included in the build,” he wrote.

But this doesn’t make any sense at all. Which, by the way, Rafael pointed out in his own incredulous question. “Why test old software bundled with the image? That doesn’t make sense.”

The answer will stupefy you.

“Not everyone around the world has access to good Internet. So need [bundled] apps to work good.”

What. The. Frick.

I think it’s safe to assume that most people sticking their necks out with the Fast ring do in fact have “access to good Internet” or that, more to the point, these people are willing to put up with slow downloads if that’s what it takes. But none of that matters: This is the Fast ring, not the Fast OS ring with slow app updates. And what Microsoft is doing here is illogical, frustrating, and unnecessary.

Microsoft: Like all other Fast ring testers, I would like to test the latest software. I’m both amused and saddened that I need to even tell you this. But for now, I will keep my PCs on Slow ring and continue to check for app updates and ignore the out-of-date apps you’re forcing on the people who have explicitly signed up for the future.

It’s going to be one of those days. But in hopes of shining this turd, I will at least point out the following: Microsoft does confirm here implicitly that Creators Update development is winding down and will could, in fact, come to a close as soon as this week. And you have to admit that’s interesting.

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Comments (40)

40 responses to “Microsoft is Inexplicably Slowing Down App Updates on the Fast Ring”

  1. the_zeni

    While I'm with you that this is frustrating for insiders in the fast ring and that the communication on it is as always with MS, I also get their point.

    It is not about the slow internet of the people in the fast ring. It is about people with slow connections that get this build on a new PC preinstalled. In about 2-3 Months almost every PC sold will have 1703 preinstalled and there sure will be a certain amount of them never being connected to a reliable internet line. And for those people it is essential that the Apps work out of the box (well maybe not Skype... but the mediaplayer for sure).

    • Bart

      In reply to the_zeni:

      So why test these apps on the Anniversary update and not on the Creators update? After all, the apps need to run on 1703?

      • the_zeni

        In reply to Bart:

        They are tested on Creators Update. That's what paul is complaining about. In order to test the specific versions they lock the fast ring (so the creators update) to these versions they want to test.

        • Bart

          In reply to the_zeni:

          So they basically need telemetry on different builds of the Creators Update?

          • the_zeni

            In reply to Bart:

            Yes. They have feature locked the version of the Apps they plan to initially ship with the CU. And they need telementry of these App versions running on Builds resembling the shipping state of the CU. The versions closest to the one that will be shipping is the fast ring. So they lock the fast ring to these specific App versions.

            Now of course the development of these App continues (such as adding the new picture in picture mode). But these newer versions will be delivered after release of the CU via Appstore updates. Once they gained enough telemetry on the Apps planned for shipping, they'll remove the version lock in order to thest the newer versions of the Apps (that are already currently being tested in slow ring).

  2. veermaharaj

    As insiders you are obligated to test whatever they give you, even if it means temporarily not getting the latest and greatest. 3rd world nation here Paul, and I often have to take win 7/10 machines back to my office to run Windows update because it's faster than doing it at my clients office on dialup.

      • NazmusLabs

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        See, I think you misunderstood Microsoft. These older versions of the apps will ship with creators update, NOT the new versions. MS first needs to test the apps that are in the base image so they are ready for the mass market. The new versions will be for insiders to test soon after. I am assuming these new updates are not ready to ship to mainstream by the release deadline and will be in insider testing sometime evern after the release of the creatos udpate.

  3. navarac

    What I read in this is that the 2 apps concerned are therefore slated for rs3, NOT rs2 ...............

    • Spineless

      In reply to navarac: On the contrary... these are for RS2, but when it comes time to ship RS3, updated production versions of the RS2 apps, will likely be the versions that ship in-box for RS3. But at that time, I would expect that RS3 optimized versions would be available in the Store for RS3 devices.

      It all comes down to Windows as a Service. If a user installs Windows 10 in an environment that isn't sufficiently internet connected, Microsoft needs to ensure that what is installed with the default install works reliably and predictably because those users are not expected to have access to regular updates. For users who are connected, they will get the latest and greatest version from the Store, as well as the subsequent updates.

  4. Deividas

    So fasted way to get apps working with RS2 new stuff, is first this year Slow ring build?

  5. jankratochvilcz

    Seems like a fair explanation on Microsoft's part. They've likely branched out the version we see in Insider Fast and will work purely on stability. This enables them to continue adding new features to another branch. I'm pretty sure once the bundled version is in good shape, MS will enable the new builds to flow to Insider Fast again.

    • zorb56

      In reply to jankratochvilcz:
      Their explanation makes sense BUT the slow ring should be the place to test for stability. The fast ring should always be for new features.

      • the_zeni

        In reply to zorb56:

        Maybe in theory. Problem is, that slow ring has a build that is waaaay too old to be resembling anything close to the release build (currently still on 14986... a build that was compiled 2. Dec 2016) and thus isn't useful for testing stability of the apps.

        And your "fast = new features" just isn't true when development cycle nears sign-off (that is where we are now). Right now new features get implemented into the rs3 branch where public insiders don't have access to. Meanwhile MS uses both public rings to get the stability done.

  6. melinau

    I'm also baffled. Like Paul I simply assumed that 'Fast Ring' was the place where the latest builds of everything Windoze would appear. It seems to follow that the Apps would be developed to run in the latest O/S builds: at least to the extent that those Builds are significantly 'new'.

    • NazmusLabs

      In reply to melinau:

      From what I understand, the new apps that were just announced won't make it in time for the Creators Update release. So, MS will ship the older versions with the Creators Update and ship the new apps much later. So MS needs us to test these older versions that will ship with the RTM and then they will give us the new apps while the mainstream users get the old versions with the creators update.

      • Spineless

        In reply to NazmusLabs: They aren't literally old versions. They are likely the latest production versions that are delivered to RS1 devices. It's not realistic to expect the first production version of the RS2 optimized app to be delivered in-box, because that would require holding up the launch of Windows 10 RS2 to ensure that every updated in-box app is working without any significant issues. Insiders help test what will be shipped to the larger public.
  7. Gardner

    There is some logic in the idea that you want to test the combination of bits that go on a distribution vehicle, after all it does need to work as a package as a starting point.

    But there is no logic in preventing someone who is motivated to test a later version of an app from doing so.

    So rather than reward testers for helping , even if its not precisely what Microsoft wants tested, we enter into the land of demotivating behavior, in essence Microsoft is saying that if you don't test exactly the way they want, they would rather have no feedback than feedback on a later version.

    If someone is only interested in testing the later version of the app, they are unlikely to test the version supplied, thats just human nature. So restrictions like these are unlikely to result in additional data. Rather, you get negative feelings, and little testing of other app versions. Lose lose.

  8. NazmusLabs

    Actually, what Microsoft is saying can make sense. From what I am understanding, for whatever reason, Windows 10 Creator's Update won'te SHIP with the newer versions. It'll ship with the older versions. And the newer versions will be offered as an update from teh Store. So, Windows 10 Creators Update is released, it will ship with these older apps, and not everyone in the mainstream market can update apps immediately (poor or no internet connections, or app updates disabled by the user), so the apps that acutaly is included in the image

    This makes perfect sense:

    Why isn't the new apps included in the image now? Well, the OS is feature locked. This means it's too late to include new features to the base image at this point. These major updaters to the apps need more more time testing. This is why MS is not including it to the base image. I am guessing these apps will arrive sometimes after the launch of the Creators update.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to NazmusLabs:

      Your conjecture could be correct, but how could it be consistent with MSFT's claim 'Not everyone around the world has access to good Internet.'? The Creators' Update would ship without any bundled apps? Meaning Creators' Update would start off with Anniversary Update's apps?

  9. jimchamplin

    I have the new update on my converted Mac mini, which is on Fast ring, but not on my Lenovo 2 in one which is also on Fast. Both are running 15042.

  10. Lewk

    I agree with you that Fast means I should get the latest app updates. But I am baffled that you don't understand what they're doing here. They're testing RC builds and need the apps that ship with the chosen RTM build to be reliable, bug free versions of those apps. So whomever installs the creators update when it goes live, and doesn't have access to an internet connection and say needs the Video app to play videos, it'll work bug free so they don't have to update the app when installing Windows. So they need everyone in the fast ring, running the Insider RC build to give them good telemetry/feedback on the version of apps they'll include in the Creators Update RTM.

    Again, I agree with you though that we as Fast ring users should be able to force update the apps if we want them.

    • madthinus

      In reply to Lewk:

      Here is the problem with that statement. Those apps have been pushed to every one on the Anniversary update. They are being used by a hundred fold more people that is in the fast ring. For all tends and purposes, those are already production ready. Why not ship those to fast ring users.

      If the apps in the fast ring build is newer than the one going out to Anniversary updates, then the rational would also make sense.

      • Paul Thurrott

        In reply to madthinus:

        What I'm baffled by---though not surprised by---is how people just line up behind whatever it is that Microsoft does without really thinking it through. Your logic here is correct. You, like me, will just be criticized for that.

        • jonathanmarston

          In reply to Paul Thurrott:

          Except that logic is not correct. You are ignoring the fact that testing the apps on Anniversary Update doesn't do any good. They must be tested on Creators Update, or the test results are invalid.

          • Pargon

            In reply to jonathanmarston:

            So will the apps revert to an older version upon installing Creator's Update and then get a message again about "new features" in another app update after they're tested on Creator's Update?

            This makes no sense.

            • NazmusLabs

              In reply to Pargon:

              That's not how Windows udpates work. If you have the newer apps, you won't get the older apps.

              The new apps they announced wont be ready for RTM, so the OS will ship with these older apps for a while.

        • NazmusLabs

          In reply to Paul Thurrott:

          I am not being paid by MS. I won't defend them willy nilly. I don't defend Windows Phones and never recommend them to anyone anymore. But in this case, the logic makes sense. MS will need to test apps that actually ships with the RTM for a while.

        • Thomas Crowe

          In reply to Paul Thurrott:

          So let me get this straight, I'm assuming that if by some means you are on a plane or trip without or very slow Internet with the Creator's Update installed and your computer requires a reset because somehow it got corrupted, so you went ahead and reset it. No worries because doing a reset doesn't require Internet, but after the reset you try to use the Groove music player and for some reason, the one packaged with the Creator's Update doesn't work because it wasn't tested properly. Microsoft claimed that they had millions test it on the Anniversary Update and it worked fine, and the fast ring is designed for only the latest updates (post RS2 in this case). Would you not complain about it and call for more reliable computing and use this as an example? I think you would.

          A better alternative is to redefine Insider expectations of what it means to be an Insider. Give an expectation of when in the cycle new development is locked, that Insiders will not be given new development code until it ships. If that's the case, then Microsoft would be better off never updating the Groove music player, etc. to non-insider branches until they are ready to deliver it to Insiders first. The latter approach denies everyone the opportunity to test out the new version of the apps so that it appears as playing fair to the Insiders.

        • Lewk

          In reply to Paul Thurrott:

          Wow are you serious? I literally said I agree with you. But all I do is point out that you've misunderstood the explanation from a Microsoft employee and I get labelled as a Microsoft apologist who believes their word is law. Again, twice I said I agree with you. That's not the kind of comment I'd expect to receive as a reader, let alone a premium subscriber.

        • Spineless

          In reply to Paul Thurrott: You do realize that you, and we, are not the typical Windows users right? We are power users, who know how to get around, are familiar with Store updates, have persistent internet connections, and generally know to get Windows to do what we want. The other 95% aren't as savvy. Microsoft needs to ensure that the out of box experience for the majority of users is as reliable and predictable as it can be. Shipping apps that aren't ready for production is contrary to the goals. I figure once RS2 goes gold, the insider app updates will start rolling out again.

      • NazmusLabs

        In reply to madthinus:

        MS needs to make sure these older apps don't have any incompatibilites on the under to hood changes in the creators update. This is called through software testing. The Creatos Update is way too close to release and the newer app updates won't be done in time to be included in the RTM image!

  11. jonathanmarston

    Here's the thing, Paul. The Windows Insiders program is not about you. The fast ring doesn't exist so that you can play with the latest software. The Windows Insiders program exists for Microsoft to get free testing.

    In this case, the testing that they need is for the versions of the in-box apps that will ship when the creators update goes live. The testing is for the people that will eventually get the creators update, then never update the in-box apps. It doesn't matter that you have a fast Internet connection. You are testing Windows for other people, not yourself.

    This post makes you sound extremely ignorant and whiney. I understand that you are frustrated, and I agree that at a minimum Microsoft should have communicated this change to Insiders before implementing it, but my goodness you sound like a self-centered little 2 year old throwing a tantrum.

    What. The. Frick.

  12. hrlngrv

    Every once in a while MSFT outdoes itself. I think Gracie Allen was reincarnated as MSFT's communications department.