by Balaji Narasimhan

Let the Upgrade Path Support Rollback

Apr 01, 20153 mins
BusinessCareersComputers and Peripherals

Software companies should allow users to run older software on new hardware which will give them a performance boost.

In my younger days, I was a bit of a speed demon–one of my almost-girlfriends sat behind me on a bike, told me I drove fast, and left me when I thanked her for what I assumed was a compliment. Fortunately, I’m still alive in spite of driving well if not wisely. Not everybody has been so lucky, but then again, there is no rollback option in life.

Unfortunately, many apps too follow this method. Earlier, in the era before app stores, you had a CD which you could use to install software. If you didn’t like it, you could uninstall it and go back to an older version.

Today, this luxury doesn’t exist. If you install a new version, that’s it–there is perhaps no going back. I discovered this when I upgraded an editing software on my iPad, which was missing one feature I needed. This was because the company had to bring out a version for iOS 8 (the older version would not work on the new iOS) and in the hurry to release the software, they omitted some features.

One of them was night mode, which made editing easier in dim light–something that was crucial for me because I used to edit articles late into the night. Fortunately, I had earlier synced my iPad to my PC, so I could delete the new version on the iPad and reinstall the older version from my PC. 

In the enterprise context, Microsoft has decided to limit upgrades for Office 2016. Users will get three feature updates a year. The company said that this will help enterprises that have crucial lines of business because a failed upgrade will cause severe loss. 

This is a good move, but software companies should do more, like stocking older versions on their app stores so that users have freedom of choice. This makes sense for everybody. Users have the ability to choose what version they run because older versions may run faster if you decide not to upgrade hardware.

It also gives software companies better monetizing options–as an alternative to freemium apps, you can possibly give an older version free or, if you are a contrarian, give a fat app free and charge for a leaner version with fewer features and lesser bloat. 

In the context of BYOD, this freedom for users could end up creating hassles for the IT staff, who will have to support multiple versions of popular software packages. In such cases, companies may choose to be restrictive about certain apps–it is simpler to have one version of mail or SAP for an organization–but freedom may be given in areas where strain is not placed on the IT department.