Just as Windows users were getting used to the largely well-received idea that Microsoft delivers a feature update once a year, the company might switch again. According to a July 14 report, Microsoft may move to a schedule where new Windows 11 features are rolled out up to four times a year, with a “major” new release appearing every three years Windows Central.
Before IT admins reach out for their pitchforks, I think this change could be more of a PR stunt than something that will have a big impact on how Windows versions are supported – which is the main concern for many IT folks when it’s about new windows releases.
The Windows group has already started murmuring the updated waters this year. After it was announced to the delight of many admins that Microsoft Windows 10 and 11 would be moving to an annual feature update cadence with longer support periods, Chief Product Officer Panos Panay and the team made it clear that they would introduce new features anytime, anyhow and could you wanted. In February of this year, Microsoft rolled out a handful of new Windows 11 features simultaneously and outside of the promised second-half feature update.
Windows headquarters says Microsoft’s new plan is to introduce new features outside of major OS releases starting in 2023 as part of a new “Moments” engineering effort. (Even the name “Moments” has a very PR-ish ring to it.) These drops could happen up to four times a year, WinCentral says. One of my contacts — @techosarusrex on Twitter — showed me his service search results last week, which revealed a possible “Moment” feature drop. He speculated that this drop could be related to the 22622 Windows 11 test build that Microsoft made available to the beta channel last week. (See the screenshot of him embedded in this post above.)
As Windows headquarters, I had heard from one of my sources that the next “big” version of the Windows client would be known as “Next Valley” or NV. (Windows 11 was codenamed “Sun Valley” or SV.) Windows headquarters says this client release is now in 2024, not next year. I haven’t heard a target date for it myself.
This report has me wondering about several things that I’m sure Microsoft won’t explain right now:
- Do these servicing changes also apply to Windows 10? If not, I think Microsoft is taking a big risk, as companies that don’t typically want multiple new features being shipped willy-nilly, bring themselves to their knees and delay the move to Windows 11 for as long as possible (if at all). put off.
- How will these changes, if and when they occur, affect the length of time Microsoft will provide support for different versions of Windows? I’m assuming the Moment feature drops won’t trigger a new support countdown clock, as the feature drop in February this year didn’t. Will Microsoft actually extend Windows support windows to last up to three years, timed with new “major” releases? Many IT people would appreciate it if this were the case.
- Will Microsoft continue to offer its annual Windows feature updates for Windows 10 and 11? This year, Windows 11 22H2 is still on the calendar for some time in the fall, and we believe Windows 10 22H2 will appear around the same time, although officials have said next to nothing about Windows 10’s update schedule (beyond (the fact that support for Windows 10 will end in October 2025.) The Windows Central report suggests that the annual feature update schedule announced a year ago may already be a thing of the past.
It is understandable that providers want to keep new hardware versions secret. But when the majority of a company’s customers are business users, similar secrecy — particularly around software and maintenance — applies far less. Businesses need predictability, and over the past year, the Windows space has been sorely lacking. Many on the Windows team seem to want Windows on PCs to move to the kind of feature update schedule that’s accepted on phones and tablets. But this ignores the fact that corporations – the largest Windows PC constituency – aren’t interested.
I’ll update this post when I get feedback from Microsoft on the reported Windows servicing changes. I’m not holding my breath for anything other than “we have nothing to share” but stay tuned.
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