Microsoft continues the race towards their announced release date of 17 October 2017 for the fourth major feature update for Windows 10 known as the Fall Creators Update.
This update has been in development since April of this year and with yesterday's release of Build 16288 for PC and 15250 for Mobile it brings the total number of development builds released for Windows Insider testing to 19 and 17 respectively. Compared to the number of development builds for the Creators Update released earlier this year, 28 for PC and 19 for Mobile, this development cycle is almost on par with the mobile side however, still needs to see 9 more builds to match up on the PC build count.
Now, no two development cycles are the same, so having a different number of builds released for testing does not dictate quality but it does indicate how many variations were able to be tested before final release of the update.
Today's PC build release provides more than 36 fixes and improvements as they stabilize the code and improve system performance. The build also lacks a desktop watermark, has no expiration or timebomb, and it is finally labeled as Windows 10 Version 1709.
Windows Version Dialog Box for Build 16288
No Desktop Watermark for Build 16288
Normally, those of us who keep an eye on Windows 10 builds this late in the development cycle would pick up on these three indicators as evidence that this build could be the final build that would become the Fall Creators Update release.
Well, Microsoft knows this speculation will happen from past experiences and so in the release notes for Build 16288 they put that to rest quickly:
"On Build 16288, you will notice that the watermark at the lower right-hand corner of the desktop has disappeared. You will also see that the OS now reports as “Version 1709” which is the official version number for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update release. However, this is NOT the final build as we’re not done yet. We’re just now beginning the phase of checking in final code to prepare for the final release. So we will have more builds to release to Windows Insiders between now and then. And the desktop watermark may re-appear in these builds."
So the one confirmation we do get from the above quote out of the release notes is that the Fall Creators Update will officially be known as Windows 10 Version 1709 - 17 for the year and 09 for the month development is completed. This matches up with the last feature update releases for Windows 10.
On the mobile side, which is under its own unique development branch called Feature 2, it received its first new build, 15250, in nearly three weeks and this one actually has new features, all primarily focused on the enterprise, that have been added to the dwindling platform.
Those new features are:
Two factor Authentication: We are excited to announce that we’ve introduced a two factor authentication unlock mechanism for Windows 10 Mobile. With two factor unlock, an enterprise can enforce an additional security layer to their sensitive data via an MDM policy. Once two factor unlock is enabled, a phone user will have to enter a numeric pin followed by an enterprise-defined factor to unlock the phone. An example of an enterprise-defined factor is a companion device such as an NFC tag which can be used to unlock a phone using our Companion Device Framework sample app and documentation.
AppLocker Improvements: A number of customers have provided feedback on the warning prompts for apps that are blocked by enterprise policies. We’ve improved the UX and updated the MDM SyncML scripts associated with the policies. Application restrictions can be configured by either the ApplicationManagement CSP or AppLocker CSP.
VPN Improvements: In the modern corporate workplace, mobility is mainstream and secure access to corporate data via VPN has become the norm. We are bringing a range of improvements and features that enhance the reliability of VPN on Windows 10 Mobile.
Not a lot to get consumers excited but then the development cycle for Windows 10 Mobile over the last five months has been fairly innocuous with a lot of fixes and tweaks (15250 has 9 documented in this release) plus a handful of new features but that is about it for what looks like the platforms final major system update.
I would expect that testers in the Windows Insiders Program will see the final build for both PC and Mobile by the end of September, maybe even with a release at Microsoft's upcoming Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida later this month, so that the final bits can get a good workout over the last two weeks prior to the 17 October rollout of the Fall Creators Update. That will give Microsoft plenty of telemetry data to determine if a Day 1 update will be necessary for the updates release on 17 October 2017.
There were no Redstone 4 Skip Ahead builds released with this batch of updates but I expect those to begin picking up their pace very soon along with the addition of new features for the fifth major feature update for Windows 10 that is expected in Spring 2018.