Sometimes Microsoft announces new features for the Insiders early testers that aren’t even available yet. It seems Redmond’s promotional hype gets ahead of the software reality. The new Accessibility ribbon is just the latest example.
According to a blog post from 29 March, there is a new Accessibility ribbon in Excel 365. There’s even a picture of it.
The new tab has the existing Check Accessibility pull-down menu and Spell check features.
Also Color, Style, Format and Naming features that are needed to fix accessibility issues.
That’s all great but where is the damn thing? It’s been three weeks since the feature was announced and supposed to be available but there’s no sign of it. We’ve used Microsoft’s image of the new ribbon because, despite having right software and waiting a few weeks, none of our Insiders have seen the Accessibility ribbon.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened. Microsoft announces a feature including which Insiders version/builds have the innovation. There are mentions in the release update listing, blog posts and even mentions in the monthly email. But that and some later versions don’t have the promised feature. Eventually the promised feature appears but not when it was supposed to.
For the Accessibility ribbon we’re told:
This feature is rolling out to Office Insiders who are running:
- Windows Beta Channel Version 2104 (Build 16.0.13916.10000) or later.
- Mac Beta Channel Version 16.48.21032104 or later.
This feature is also available to Excel for the web users.
We had those and now later builds but there’s nothing. Not even the Excel for the web version which should be up-to-date.
Why the delay?
There are many possible reasons. It might not be a delay so much as the promotional machine getting ahead of reality.
We don’t know what’s happened to the Accessibility ribbon. It would seem like a relatively simple extra. Customers could make their own Accessibility ribbon because it looks like a ‘mash up’ of existing menus and buttons with little or nothing technically complex.
One reason for delay is geographical, this especially applies to cloud related features. The initial release of a feature can depend on the software and availability of services at Microsoft’s server farms. The feature might not show if Office can’t connect to the necessary service. This happened quite a lot when Stock and Geography data types was first released.
Sometimes Microsoft will mention, in the fine print, that a feature is only available initially in the USA. On other occasions there’s no mention of a geo-limitation but there clearly is one either by design or accident of cloud deployment.
Another possibility for cloud services is the gradual release. When Microsoft is testing both the desktop software and cloud services, they might want to limit the load on their servers during the initial Insiders testing.
An Insiders feature might be limited to, say 10%, of users at first then gradually increasing until all testers have availability.
These gradual releases seem to be combined with a geographical ‘North America only’ starting limitation.
Again, these ramping up’ policies should be in the ‘fine print’ but not always, to the frustration of Insiders.
Last minute bugs
Another possibility is a last-minute development problem. The intended deadline has to be delayed because of unexpected problems with the feature. Pausing release until the bugs are fixed is a good thing, but why doesn’t the delay stop the promotions going ahead?
It seems that the Microsoft’s hype gene is activated on the planned release date, whether the feature is available or not. For all of Microsoft’s boasts about collaboration and communication, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of either between the developers and the promoter Teams.