Yes, Microsoft Did Promise Timeline for the Fall Creators Update

Posted on July 6, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 95 Comments

Yes, Microsoft Did Promise Timeline for the Fall Creators Update

In the wake of Microsoft’s revelation that it will not ship Timeline in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, some are attempting to rewrite history, claiming that Microsoft was vague about when this feature might appear. But Timeline, along with other cross-device features, was explicitly promised for the Fall Creators Update.

“In our Fall Creators Update, for the first time, Windows PCs will love all your devices,” Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore said during the Build 2017 keynote at which he announced this functionality. (You can find this quote at the 48:44 mark if you’d like to hear it for yourself.) “Fluent design, Files on Demand, Timeline, Cloud-powered Clipboard, these are all ways that we’re going to make our users lives better.”

This statement seems pretty clear to me. And it stands in sharp contrast to the backpedaling that Belfiore and some Microsoft fanboys are doing now on Twitter.

“From my [point of view,] we described [a] set of features that would come starting with [the Fall Creators Update],” he tweeted. “And I thought we’d communicated uncertainty.”

Look, Joe’s a great guy, and I’m sure that Microsoft understood that many of these features would not actually make the Fall Creators Update. And to be fair, they were explicit about one feature being rolled out over a period of: The Fluent design language will only be partially implemented in the Fall Creators Update.

Is it possible that there is some equivocating or hedging on these features elsewhere in the Build 2017 keynote? Sure. I haven’t rewatched the full presentation. But I’ll just raise two issues here, one that should be obvious to all, and one that will be obvious in retrospect.

First, that statement above is pretty definitive. If Joe or others on the Windows team were more ambiguous elsewhere, that doesn’t undercut that the fact that he summarized his talk about those new features with the above statement.

Second, a few hundred members of the press and blogosphere were pre-briefed on the Build 2017 day 2 keynote contents the day before the presentation. And looking at my extensive notes from that day, I see that it is broadly about the new world view for Windows, the new strategy that I wrote about at the time. And more specifically, it focused on features that are coming in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Which I also wrote about at the time. No one ever said anything about these features rolling out over time. Except for Fluent; on that, again, they were explicit.

And there are other bits in the Build 2017 keynote that support my view. For example, when Terry Myerson returns to the stage after Joe (and after a Project Rome demo), he says the following.

“What we just saw with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update,” he says at the 1:06:55 mark, “it isn’t just the next update coming this fall. This is a big opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us to keep our customers close to the content, files, and activities they’ve grown to use and love.”

That language refers to Timeline. And to Pick Up Where You Left Off, Clipboard, and OneDrive Files on Demand, all features that were announced for the Fall Creators Update.

You get the idea.

I’m not just being pedantic here. Communication is important, not just the words one uses, but the way in which those words are delivered. I feel it is disingenuous to make promises on a stage to your customers and then backpedal silently, using the limited audience on Twitter to spin a different story. Being honest isn’t always easy, but it’s almost always the right thing to do.

Everyone who watched that Build 2017 keynote—and was briefed in advance, as some of us were—believed that it was Microsoft’s intent to deliver Timeline and those other features—plus some I’m not even discussing here, like Story Remix and Phone settings interface—in the Fall Creators Update. And that misunderstanding, if that’s what it is, is on Microsoft, not its customers.

So maybe someone can watch this video again and find that one place where Joe, or Terry, or someone else equivocates a bit, or introduces a bit of uncertainty. I’m not sure that matters, when the impression that everyone got was that these things were coming in the next update. And that it would have been very easy to communicate otherwise if that was not going to be the case.

It’s time for some clarity, Microsoft. What’s really going to be in the Fall Creators Update? Will any other features be dropped?


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Comments (100)

100 responses to “Yes, Microsoft Did Promise Timeline for the Fall Creators Update”

  1. Jaxidian

    They simply need to say, "Yeah, we're running late with this stuff. Sorry y'all but we have to get this right so we don't ship crap."

    • MutualCore

      In reply to Jaxidian:

      At the same time I wish Microsoft would get a better handle on features so that they can keep promises. F.e., with 'My People' they should have said that they're shipping it in phases and then you would have seen it in CU with maybe just the ability to Skype and email. You notice with Fluent Design they said it will be shipping in phases over multiple releases instead of *boom* one release like iOS 6 to iOS 7.

      • Jaxidian

        In reply to MutualCore:

        Firstly, Fluent is different though. They don't even know what it will become. They just know it's a work-in-progress and shared the first couple stages of that work-in-progress with hopes that they figure out the next stages.

        Secondly, I don't think they really have a "big picture" plan with features other than UWP and Azure. Everything they're doing with Windows 10 at this point is just trying to milk that cow for as much as they can for as long as they can. So I think your comment on wanting them to "get a better handle on features" is an obvious thing to ask for that I simply don't think they're going to do with how operating systems are becoming more of an unimportant commodity. Yeah, there's still money there for them to make but that just isn't the future of Microsoft anymore.

        • MutualCore

          In reply to Jaxidian:

          Nothing you said has any substance or facts backing it up. New features do matter in operating systems, otherwise why does Apple & Google keep adding them to their OSes? Also everyone seems to be forgetting that Windows on ARM is coming in FCU.

  2. bbold

    MS should make an official announcement (not on Twitter, but to the press) regarding the delay/s, and they should step back from making future promises they can't keep. (Such as pulling Band and Phone from the market, without so much as a nod or a wink to those of us who have invested heavily in the MS universe of products.) It will only affect consumer/commercial confidence and their stock value if they continue to do this. If I was Nadella, I would fire those responsible for the delay, or at least reprimand them and/or make sure they understand the importance of being on time when you commit to something, how this can damage the company's value and trust. Crap travels downhill, don't you know?

    Btw, what is wrong with the comment page? It is not showing words together and cutting off the ends of words. (see above)

  3. Waethorn

    Just by a vote average, how many people are frustrated in the direction of Microsoft, or lack thereof, lately?

    • bbold

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Frustrated. But only because I care about Microsoft as a company. I'm sure most consumers and commercial clients just want less updates and more stability in what they currently have. Why doesn't MS just put ALL of its resources into making the Cloud, Store and Edge as great as it can be, instead of promising daydream features we will never see? What are they doing up there?

      • Waethorn

        In reply to bbold:

        If they want to keep building Edge, fine. But do it as a cross-platform browser like Chrome. If Microsoft's browser is the singular gateway app to Microsoft services, it needs to be on every platform. Or else just give it up and build their cloud services for HTML5 and forget about the browser fight, like Windows.

        Microsoft's own messaging makes it clear that the Windows Store is pretty much a failure. If they're building cloud apps, the only logical shift for the Windows Store is to promote PWA's, which should only really be front-ends for existing web/cloud apps anyway, meaning they'd run on Chrome or Firefox on any other flatform equally well, but just missing native OS features like integrated notifications or Live Tile support or such.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to Waethorn:

          You forget MSFT hubris. There's no way they'd make Edge cross-platform if Edge wound up with less overall user share than Safari. That could not be allowed.

          Also, it's highly likely Edge is so wound into Windows 10's interstices that it's effectively impossible to separate from Windows without at least a year of negative ROI effort for a battalion of developers. That is, I suspect Edge is more a part of Windows than IE ever was.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to bbold:

        It’s pretty clear that the truth is that they have just as little clue what’s going on as we do.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to Waethorn: Well, being a Windows Phone fan, what do you think?

  4. Win74ever

    "What’s really going to be in the Fall Creators Update?"

    Fluent Design. That is actually a new Calculator app with transparency while the rest of the system remains with old UIs dating back Windows 95. What a joke.

  5. openmisere

    Microsoft SHOULD be more upfront about what will be delivered when and SHOULD be more upfront when delays happen. And we SHOULD ALSO be more FORGIVING when delays inevitably happen. Who here has not been involved in a technology project that has not taken longer than expected, or cost more than expected, or was more complex than expected? And just imagine what is involved to deliver features like Timeline across multiple platforms. It's certainly more complex that adding features to a forum or getting timesheets in on time - and we know these simple things sometimes get done late. And saying that Microsoft has more resources and more experience, so it ought to be able to perfectly forecast its development schedule, isn't a good enough response IMHO, because in some circumstances it is in unchartered territory. And I like that Microsoft keeps pushing forward and doing new things. It's a Friday everyone - at least it is in Australia - grab a beer and relax. PS: I also turn my PC off every night, so I don't mind needing to re-boot it 2x per month either. Just saying.

  6. KingPCGeek

    I'm still waiting for WinFS

  7. Jules Wombat

    What a fuss about nothing. We all know that the Build presentations are new development marketing announcements and are NOT Release statements or even specific commitments on the next Release.

    Joe is entirely correct and Paul is wrong on this.

    Someone needs to grow up.

    • Jeff Jones

      In reply to Jules_Wombat:

      I disagree.

      The Build conference is Microsoft's developer conference where they announce features that developers can start thinking about how to make use of, especially when new APIs are needed. If you get up on stage and say specifically that the update due in 6 months will have these great features, then you should be pretty confident in the time frame. If they didn't even have a prototype in May that was stable enough to put into the fast ring, they did not need to announce it for a November release.

      You could argue that it's not an official release statement, but it's definitely a statement in an official key note detailing literally what's coming to the Fall update.

      But none of that means they can't talk about future plans. They could have easily had a section talking about long term features they were working on. No need to specifically say it was coming to the Fall update, which is what they did.

    • Robin

      In reply to Jules_Wombat:

      Agreed. Crying-Paul needs to take a vacation... preferably at a silent retreat.

  8. jimchamplin

    Anybody wanna place a bet on how long it will be before Fluent Design turns out to be either far less than was promised, or simply a total sham?

    Edit: I say this knowing that they said it wouldn’t be done all at once, but I point at macOS as an example that they simply don’t know what they’re doing. Either that or they don’t know their own system. Mac OS X as it was known at the time, went through several design changes before a major overhaul with 10.5 Leopard, where it ditched the white pinstripes and went all al-you-min-ee-um. A minor overhaul happened in 10.7. Then in 10.10 Yosemite, they replaced EVERYTHING. Even font metrics changed, but apps didn’t need to be updated, everything just worked.

    So so why does Fluent Design need more than one release? They clearly have the graphics and UX rules finalized right? RIGHT!? Otherwise they wouldn’t be showing demo videos of it! Just fucking implement it. Stop beating around the bush.

  9. hrlngrv

    Belfiore took a leave of absence and learned how to talk like a politician.

  10. MutualCore

    Timeline sounds like a very complex feature which I'd rather be 100% ready instead of half-baked and broken and Paul ranting about that.

  11. Minok

    From the company that had for a good while two "first" priorities, and cannot brand its way out of a wet paper sack, is it surprising they make announcements from management before the engineers have actually solved the problem and gotten the product working? (which admittedly is a problem at all large companies I image... engineers LOVE it when this happens)

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to Minok:

      Yes, it reminds me of the fading pop star that tries too hard to be relevant. MS has never been the cool kid, and their WaaS approach is so far out of character for them.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

        Quibble: MSFT was the cool kid once, with Windows 95. People actually collected outside Egghead Software stores waiting to be among the first to buy Windows 95. I still have my set of 3.5" floppies around somewhere. Shame it was 2 decades ago.

      • MutualCore

        In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

        WaaS is way better than having 3 years between releases which you have to end up re-installing all your applications. At least the promise with Windows 10 going forward is that you never ever have to reinstall stuff again. W10 is the last Windows. If you know anything about OneCore you'd realize they solved a major architectural issue with Windows that will allow them to keep adding features in a way that isn't disruptive.

        • Minok

          In reply to MutualCore:

          Until the WaaS becomes incompatible with your application (that ran just fine) and suddenly your application is gone. Based on what Apple is doing with iOS at present where the next release will no longer support 32 bit apps, and some of my favorites are just going to stop working - or I never upgrade past my current iOS version. I'm sure MSFT will step on that same issue at some point..

  12. nwebster

    So you'd rather they roll out some half-baked version of Timeline, so you could then complain about how it doesn't work? I am sure they expected it to make it in, but had to make a call... either roll out something not working where people really would appreciate it or cut it. It seems they did the right thing.

    Maybe instead of renaming to, Paul should have changed it to "".

  13. CompUser

    "... when the impression that everyone got was that these things were coming in the next update. And that it would have been very easy to communicate otherwise if that was not going to be the case." Apparently they did communicate it since you know about it and this is at least the second or third time that either you or Brad Sams have written about it. Maybe it just hasn't been announced according to your personal timeline?

    But, like the apps karma77police mentioned a while ago, I know Timeline isn't an app I would likely ever use, and therefore I couldn't care less whether it's included with the Fall Creators Update. In fact, what I'd like to see Microsoft do is to completely stop installing non-OS related apps of any kind along with the OS. Instead, Microsoft should make those non-OS related apps available in the Microsoft Store, and include an availability notification/options screen as a final step of installing Windows which would let people select from not installing them at all, select and install them along with Windows, or download and install them later from the Windows Store.

    Unrelated, but Paul, why is the comments section right justifying and chopping words at such weird places? Like putting one letter on the next line?

  14. Vuppe

    Microsoft in June: Starting on August 1 we're offering days in August.

    Microsoft in July: August is being delayed, I thought we made it clear we were going to start making August days sometime after August 1, they'll come eventually.

  15. Gardner

    1. Switch to a 1-year update cycle aiming for September/October
    2. Announce naming and features 4 months before that. Only include features you are sure you can ship.
    3. Keep developing against those features until you are done, never cut features to make dates.
    4. Ship when its done.
    5. Make sure #2 isn't a guess. Its a commitment.
  16. SvenJ

    "Communication is important, not just the words one uses, but the way in which those words are" going to be picked apart and overanalyzed. I get that's the job here, but I don't think they were being deviously over optimistic, just enthusiastically over optimistic. It's hard to say, "oops, we aren't going to be able to deliver what we said, when we said". Way harder than promising it in the first place. It's not in marketer's blood to do that. Read Dilbert if you want insight into the dynamic between marketing and engineering.

    I don't disagree that their messaging needs to get better, but you discussed this on WW. We used to hear nothing until we had it in our hands. Now maybe we hear way too much. They need to learn to strike a balance. The company seems to have swung back to being run by engineers, and marketing isn't their forte.  It is unfortunate that we aren't going to get what we thought we are going to get, but we never had it before. Not like it is disrupting an established workflow if it happens a little later.

  17. DWAnderson

    Still waiting for features that I thought were supposed to be part of the original Creator's update...

  18. SleepingPelican

    Switching to one update a year wouldn't prevent this from happening and I think maintaining two releases a year is fine, in fact preferable (one minor, one major). With complex software development it is almost impossible to guarantee timelines sometimes.

  19. Michael Miller

    "Yes, Microsoft Did Promise Timeline for the Fall Creators Update".....this is kind of like Thurrott's Surface 3 review where he loved it before he hated it; people and situations change...just like Paul's reviews.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to Michael_Miller:

      Except that Joe Belfiore stood there in front of that whole crowd and said it. Watch the video.

      • Michael Miller

        In reply to jimchamplin
        Yes, he did. But Thurrott wrote a quite favorable review of the Surface 3--in front of all who reads to reverse it in total a year later. My point is that situations change. Don't see much difference between Microsoft's change in promised time regarding a software feature and Paul's change in his position on a product. In fact, Thurrott's change of mind is probably more egregious as some people--like me--based a purchase on his review. MS will likely deliver the subject new feature at some point--Thurrott's full reversal is permanent.

        • Jeff Jones

          In reply to Michael_Miller:

          I'm not so sure it really compares. Microsoft's problem isn't that they changed their mind and delayed the Timeline feature. It's that they didn't make an official post, and they tweeted that it was never "promised" for the Fall Creators Update in the first place.

          It may be true that they didn't use the word "promise", but it was a pretty official sounding list of features coming in the Fall Creators Update. For MS to argue otherwise is being pedantic.

          If they had said, "Ooops, we are going to need more development time for this feature so it will be pushed to a later date", that would have been fine.

  20. F4IL

    I don't see what all the fuss is about. They prematurely announced features that aren't going to make the cut for this year's big release. Sure, they intentionally created a misunderstanding by trying to cover up the issue, but that's to be expected.

    • Chris Payne

      In reply to F4IL:

      The big deal, IMO, is about seeing Microsoft develop a pattern of underdelivering. The once mighty MS who delivered massive improvements in technology with each Windows release and led the technology pack now can't muster the strength to deliver. And what's worse, they're falling behind every single day in the "personal computing device" war, and the things they're promising don't address that at all.

      So you have an issue of MS promising things that won't ever get them back to the top of the pile, and they can't even deliver on that. It speaks to a company that has jumped the shark, like Blackberry.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to unkinected:


        You’ve said exactly the thing. They act like they can turn things around by adding mobile-like features on top of the mediocre house of cards that is the overly complex mess of Windows.

        Windows 8 was at least decisive and bold. Instead of staying the course while quickly adding a tiny bit of code allowing the Windows 7 start menu as an option, they just threw the whole thing out, and I’m starting to think that was the first sign of real trouble.

      • F4IL

        In reply to unkinected:

        Based on your (IMHO accurate) observations, msft is no longer what it used to be. It is a different company in a completely different context.

        Maybe, people need to re evaluate their view (of msft) and adjust their expectations accordingly.

  21. Rcooper81

    Microsoft is creating a pattern of promising a feature in the "next" update, then not delivering. It happened with the Creators Update, now it's happening with the Fall Creators update. Under promise and over deliver, not the other way round.

  22. chrisrut

    When marketing is held to the same standard of accuracy as documentation or contracts, it can consist of nothing but documentation and contracts. Marketing sells the sizzle, sales delivers the steak. Too much sizzle is called fraud. Too little sizzle is called failure.

  23. mortarm

    >...Communication is important, not just the words one uses, but the way in which those words are delivered.

    I couldn't agree more. ;)

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