Redstone ready for August 2nd? I'm having doubts, for Mobile at least....

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As already reported, Microsoft is planning to roll out the Windows 10 'Anniversary Update' on August 2nd, 2016, and 'expects' to begin over-the-air rollout of the same update to 'mobile' (i.e. phones) from that date too. Yet, despite a frantic pace of Insider test builds (several a week), time is, quite simply, running out, and Microsoft will either have to delay the Windows 10 Mobile version or roll it out with plenty of known issues.

It's not just my own observations and annoyances, mind you. Yes, the pop-up (volume buttons) media controls are horribly broken and Microsoft shows zero sign of paying any attention to what is (for me) a showstopping bug. But there's a lot more, just read through the comments on any of our Insider build stories. For every thing Microsoft says is fixed, there's another known issue and two other bugs which are being rightly moaned about by end users.

Then there are the data points over in Microsoft's own discussion forums (e.g. here) - I subscribe to these in my feed readers and so I see all the issues, complaints and instabilities that get reported. Some of them are frightening, with stuck updates, phone reboots and general non-operation. Now, I'm sure that some of these are due to user error and people doing silly things (not least jumping on the Insiders programme without realising the consequences or risk of having to rebuild occasionally) but they can't all be wrong and do rather back up my gut feeling that, despite the best efforts of Dona Sarkar and team, the 'rollout' of the Anniversary Update (Redstone) to production phones may be somewhat staggered. As in staggered by a few months

You see, creating operating systems is hard enough, we've mentioned this enough times. Tens of millions of lines of code, maybe even hundreds of millions. And a lot of the code interacting with other modules and systems. And that's just for the desktop. Now factor in much more real time connectivity and telephony, factor in more location and NFC stuff, factor in specialist hardware drivers for various chipsets, cameras and microphones. Some of this is offloaded to the 'firmware' (which itself is taking its own sweet time to roll out in staggered fashion), but there's still plenty in Windows 10 itself, plus it's all got to talk to the firmware and work 100% reliably with it.

Bugs and questions

Yes, '100% reliably'. After all, while users can put up with their laptop or desktop crashing every now and then ("Hey, it's Windows, what do you expect?"), on the phone we're talking about people's lives. Picking up urgent communications from kids, partners, parents - if a crash or freeze or bug gets in the way of these even one time then you can't blame the user from losing confidence in Windows 10 Mobile. I've lost count of the number of 'I'm moving to Android' comments over on those Microsoft forums - which are slightly ironic as I've had almost as many issues on Android as on Windows 10 Mobile, short of sticking to Nexus devices all the time.

So how long is it going to take to get Windows 10 Mobile to the point where I and the wider community have run out of issues to complain about? Tough to tell - the OS was pronounced 'done' last year and then we saw the first native Windows 10 Mobile devices, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL. Which were patently as buggy as heck. We're now well into July 2016, a full eight months later (depending on when you start counting from) and 'Threshold', the 10586 build branch of Windows 10 Mobile, is still getting fortnightly bug fix updates.

Even a Lumia 950, 950 XL or 650 with 10586.494 on it still has that longstanding media control bug, for example - maybe there are issues which are just too deep seated and complex and Microsoft has given up, preferring to  ignore in the short term and work around in the long term? Then add in issues and bugs that came in with Redstone and the new features and APIs and... come on, there's no way that this is all going to be sorted out in the next three weeks.

Were Microsoft simply hopelessly over-optimistic with the original schedule for Windows 10 Mobile? They certainly achieved version parity and we've seen many builds now appear for both Intel (desktop) and ARM (mobile) together. Which in itself is a major achievement. But the aforementioned extra complications on the phone side mean that there's a lot more variation in use case, applications and situations.

Just to quote one common example, a laptop or desktop can usually expect good connectivity - either a strongish Wi-fi signal or perhaps a wired connection, yet I've seen phones get very confused when in a poor cellular signal area and/or with poor Wifi. But the phone has to struggle on, make the best of what it can get, and without crashing or misbehaving at all.

Elite X3 with connected Lap Dock

In short, I'm appalled at how far behind Windows 10 Mobile is from where it needs to be. The 'app gap' is often quoted, though that's actually easier to fix, and UWP apps are appearing all the time. But in terms of overall stability and a fast, bug-free environment, the OS still has quite a way to go. HP, for one, is betting a lot on it for its Elite X3 computing system, and I'm really hoping that HP's input and expectations help to 'harden' Windows 10 Mobile over the rest of the Summer and Autumn. (As well as significantly improving Continuum.)

Just don't expect a juicy, feature-packed, bug-free Anniversary Update OTA on August 2nd. Not on your phones anyway. That's just not going to happen.

Am I being too harsh? What's your best guess as to the schedule for the Redstone Rollout? Comments welcome!