Microsoft has pulled back the curtains on their plans for updating Windows 10 later this year, and the news should be well received among IT personnel in the enterprise and education sectors as it will be focused on performance and stability instead of a collection of new system-level features.
Since the initial release of Windows 10 back in July 2015, Microsoft has always planned to make two major feature updates available each calendar year. Since then the company has made a few tweaks to that servicing process they refer to as Windows as a Service (WaaS).
Among those changes, significant for enterprise and education customers, was extending the official lifecycle support period for the fall feature update release to a full 30 months instead of just 18 months as the spring update now receives. That change alone meant enterprise and education customers could shift to updating Windows 10 once every 24 months to minimize the disruption of deploying a new feature update.
In a blog post published July 1, 2019, by John Cable, Microsoft’s Director of Program Management for Windows Servicing and Delivery, lays out Microsoft's plans for shipping a cumulative update for Windows 10 in the September 2019 timeframe instead of a full build release.
Cable states that this next feature update for Windows 10…
“…will be a scoped set of features for select performance improvements, enterprise features and quality enhancements. To deliver these updates in a less disruptive fashion, we will deliver this feature update in a new way, using servicing technology (like the monthly update process) for customers running the May 2019 Update who choose to update to the new release.”
Yes, this sounds a lot like a service pack. For the most part, that is exactly what this is looking like, except now the service packs are called cumulative updates and they are provided for supported versions of Windows 10 each month containing security, stability, and bug fixes.
With these changes, it looks like Microsoft may have finally realized that shipping two full feature updates every calendar year is not the best scenario for many of their customers. However, the Redmond company is not confirming anything beyond this being a new approach they are trying out for the 19H2 update as reported by NeoWin.
The change makes a lot of sense for a few reasons: the support lifecycles for the spring and fall semi-annual updates stand at 18 months and 30 months respectively, and the enterprise is facing the final months of official lifecycle support for Windows 7. Many enterprises and education customers are in some stage of their Windows 7 to 10 migrations, and the idea they could consider deploying a feature update just once every 24 months instead of every six months is going to be a very palatable option for large organizations.
Some of this change was indicated earlier this year when Microsoft changed up their testing approach for Windows 10 feature updates and pushed the first semi-annual update of 2020, codenamed 20H1, to the Windows Insider Skip Ahead Ring. It was subsequently moved into the Fast Ring after the Windows 10 May 2019 Update (Version 1903) was shipped in May.
The entire sequence of events suggests the company is listening to its enterprise and education customers.
To test this new update process for updating Windows 10, interested IT pros should join Windows Insider for Business and then download the first build, aka cumulative update, for the 19H2 update which was released on Monday.
Yes, just like a service pack.