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September 23, 2020

Rumor: MS Pondering Return to Yearly Version Upgrades

Here’s an interesting bit of speculation, for which one can find all kinds of potential support amidst the rumors always swirling around Windows 10 upgrades. The source is Mayank Paymar at WindowsLatest. It shows up in an August 30 story entitled Windows 10 is braced for a major upgrade shift next year.

Here’s the relevant info from that story, which is baldly and openly attributed to hearsay and rumors. Basically it says that because Windows 10X is slipping into Q2 of 2021, 20H1 will instead become and be released in 20H2. Further, it asserts “Windows 10 21H1 won’t happen at all and Microsoft will shift to an annual release schedule for 2021” wherein the next Feature Update “will debut as 21H2 with 21H1 features.”

I concur that the second of the two annual “big releases” for Windows 10 has settled into more of a “feature and security roll-up” than what happens in the first of those two releases. Thus Paymar’s reporting basically boils down to “no more H2 rollup; H1 feature upgrade slips into H2 instead.” Given that plenty of others have reported on the Windows 10X slip from this year into next, this scenario makes enough sense to be appealing if not anything close to an official line from Microsoft. Hence my label in the article title “Rumor:”.

Is Twice Yearly Once Too Much?

Lots of business users have already opted out of the two-a-year cadence for major upgrades to the desktop OS anyway. MS has accommodated them by providing a longer (30-month) support lifetime for H1 releases than it has been providing for H2 releases (18 months). This means most large-scale Windows users are already skipping interim feature upgrades. In fact, careful use of the 30-month support life means they effectively need to opt in only every other year anyway. Could it be that Microsoft is finally realizing they don’t need to push releases out at the speed they’ve been struggling to maintain since Windows 10 made its debut in 2015? Perhaps yes, perhaps no.

But I believe that Paymar’s reporting is at least credible and believable. Even for retail and small-scale users of Windows 10, the current cadence is hard to keep up with. In fact, it sometimes forces them into deliberately hanging back as with the staggered update offers for Version 2004 (now 4 months in) which still haven’t reached some 1909 users because of known issues, driver problems, and the like. If Paymar is right (and I think he could be), a new approach to upgrades and their cadence in 2021 could make life easier for everybody. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Note on Lead Graphic

The listing of feature upgrades (including Insider Preview releases, in which my production PC participated briefly in 2017) on my production PC appears as the lead-in graphic for this story. It’s the output from a couple of PowerShell commands, thanks to a 2018 ghacks.net story by Martin Brinkmann. See that story  Display the Windows upgrade history using PowerShell for cut’n’paste access to those two commands to reproduce this output for yourself. It’s very interesting, especially on Insider Preview machines, which tend to get anywhere from once-a-week to once-a-month feature upgrades, depending on the Insider Preview channel to which they subscribe. This graphic shows that, by and large, this PC has been getting upgrades twice a year since 2018. That’s what most ordinary Windows 10 users face right now, but may no longer have to handle starting next year. Here’s hopin’!


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.

2 Responses “Rumor: MS Pondering Return to Yearly Version Upgrades”

  1. CountMike
    August 31, 2020 at 21:09

    If upgrades are substantial, twice a year isn’t too many but they have been less than that last couple of years. I’d rather have them not adhering to any schedule but release when there’s something to write home about.

  2. September 1, 2020 at 16:52

    Good point. Creating a release just to meet an arbitrary promise/deadline is not terribly useful or helpful to anybody. Thanks for commenting. =e=

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