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July 11, 2020

MS Changes Insider Program to “Channels”


Here’s a hot announcement, straight from the Windows Insider Program blog. That post is dated June 15, and entitled “Introducing Windows Insider Channels.” Basically, it dismisses the old ring model (Fast Ring, Slow Ring, Release Preview) in favor of what it calls

a new channel model that pivots on the quality of builds and better supports parallel coding efforts. In addition to this change, Insiders will also find similar offering names and expectations across Windows and Office programs and soon Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Teams.

In other words, rings are giving way to channels, where the old terminology is mapped into the new channels and terminology in the lead-in graphic for this story.

Flipping Through the Insider Channels

As the lead-in graphic shows, insiders will now choose among three different channels, as follows

+ Dev Channel: these map to the old Fast Ring and Skip Ahead Ring levels (of which Skip Ahead has already  been MIA since early 2020) and aim at “highly technical users” who “will received builds that is [sic] earliest in a development cycle and will contain the latest work-in-progress code from our engineers. These builds will have rough edges and some instability that could block key activities or require workarounds.” These builds are NOT tied to a specific Windows 10 release, and new features and improvements won’t show up in future Windows 10 releases until ready for prime time, when they may be delivered in feature upgrades or servicing (CU) form.
+ Beta Channel: Aimed at early adopters, this targets enthusiasts and IT pros who want to investigate and experience upcoming Windows 10 features and functions. Even so, Beta Channel releases should be “relatively stable,” having been “validated by Microsoft.” These releases are tired to specific upcoming Windows 10 releases, and feedback is vital to make sure upcoming releases are as stable, reliable and error-free as possible.
+ Release Preview Channel: OS versions based on the next upcoming release of Windows 10, made available to enthusiasts and IT pros before general availability with “advanced quality updates and certain key features.” MS supports these releases and recommends that companies use them to “preview and validate upcoming Windows 10 releases before broad deployment within their organization”(s).

MS also leaves the door open for future additions, saying “we may introduce new channels for new experiences for Insiders.”

The way I understand things, here is how to pick channels based on membership in previous Insider rings:

+ PCs previously in the Fast Ring or the Skip Ahead Ring should opt into the Dev Channel
+ PCs previously in the Slow Ring should opt into the Beta Channel
+ PCs previously in the Release Preview Ring should opt into the Release Preview Channel

I just jumped into Settings → Update & Security → Windows Insider Program. I don’t yet see the new Channel options in the GUI just yet. I imagine we’ll have to wait for a new CU or Insider upgrade before we’ll see this new regime showing up therein. Stay tuned!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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