Those of us who were part of the personal computing world from its earliest days perhaps don’t question the necessity of software updates quite like those consumers who joined proceedings a little later on. Sure, you do get used to having to constantly install software updates when your computer or smartphone appears to have applied the mind of its own it has to download all these updates, but at some point it must have been really annoying.
Updates form a natural part of the software development cycle though, with a number of reasons for their importance. We’ll get back to those in a bit. First I think we need to address a rather worrying issue around software updates and the natural lifecycle of software and the devices on which it runs.
The truth of the matter is that computing devices or smart devices which have some kind of computing power wouldn’t make their manufacturers and even third-party software developers as much money as they do if they lasted forever and didn’t need any software updates. The argument from the software development industry is a very legitimate one, that being that software is never really complete and can always be updated, but if those are the pure intentions the developers have then they won’t charge the consumers who bought their products any additional fees for the updates.
To be fair, most software updates are released for free by their vendors and it’s rather the upgrades which usually require some extra money to be popped out. After all, you are getting better functionality with the upgrades and you’re getting more value than what you would have originally paid for.
The door is definitely left open for planned obsolescence however and the reality is that many software and hardware manufacturers take full advantage of this opening to end support for some of their devices and therefore end their lifecycle so that newer versions must be bought.
The need for updates
Getting back to the basic need for software updates, it all comes down to the dynamic nature of the environment in which the software is deployed and the hardware which that software powers.
Your navigation device invariably needs its Garmin GPS update, for example, simply because road networks change and evolve and so the system you use to navigate those road networks with needs to be up-to-date. However, this is an example of a necessitated update, but fortunately there is a lifetime option which means you never have to keep paying for ongoing updates.
Then you get updates that are necessary on account of security, such as how operating systems like Microsoft’s Windows eventually get “cracked” by malicious hackers who can then exploit core features as some vulnerabilities through which to gain access to user’s computers and the sensitive data stored on them. Eventually, Windows has to release a brand new OS which is built on a completely fresh set of core algorithms, file systems, interfaces, etc, while application type software is often just updated to add improvements in addition to tightening security.