Report: Microsoft May Be Planning Major Windows 11 Updates Every 3 Years

Posted on July 14, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Windows, Windows 11 with 25 Comments

Microsoft is reportedly planning to release new major updates for Windows 11 every three years. According to Windows Central, this means that the next major update for Windows 11 could now ship in 2024, three years after the initial release of Windows 11.

“This means that the originally planned 2023 client release of Windows (codenamed Sun Valley 3) has been scrapped, but that’s not the end of the story. I’m told that with the move to this new development schedule, Microsoft is also planning to increase the output of new features rolling out to users on the latest version of Windows,” Windows Central’s Zac Bowden explained.

Last year, Microsoft announced that Windows 11 would receive major updates once a year, and so would Windows 10 until its end of support in 2025. However, Microsoft already released the first feature update for Windows 11 back in February, which brought the Amazon Android App Store in the US, a new Media Player app, as well minor improvements for the Windows 11 taskbar.

The next Windows 11 update (22H2, or Sun Valley 2) coming later this year is already being tested with Windows Insiders. However, Windows Central believes that the next major update coming next year (Sun Valley 3) has been “scrapped” due to Microsoft adopting a new release schedule. However, Microsoft minor updates like the one we had in February should continue to happen throughout the year.

“Starting with Windows 11 version 22H2 (Sun Valley 2), Microsoft is kicking off a new “Moments” engineering effort which is designed to allow the company to rollout new features and experiences at key points throughout the year, outside of major OS releases. I hear the company intends to ship new features to the in-market version of Windows every few months, up to four times a year, starting in 2023,” Bowden explained.

If you’ve been following Windows Insider news since the release of Windows 11, the team has been pretty clear that new features being tested with Insiders are not tied to a specific Windows release. Instead, the Windows Insider team insists that new features can ship “when they’re ready.”

Bowden explained that this more flexible approach will allow Microsoft to release new Windows 11 features more often. “Many of the features that were planned for the now-scrapped Sun Valley 3 client release will ship as part of one of these Moments on top of Sun Valley 2 instead of in a dedicated new release of the Windows client in the fall of 2023,” the report reads.

If Microsoft does really plan to release the next major update for Windows 11 in 3 years, it wouldn’t exactly be a comeback to previous Windows eras. Enterprise customers may certainly welcome the slower release schedule, while consumers would still get new features throughout the year that IT admins may be able to disable if needed.

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Comments (25)

25 responses to “Report: Microsoft May Be Planning Major Windows 11 Updates Every 3 Years”

  1. madthinus

    Your assertion that it would be Windows 11 updates I think is wrong. Zac made it clear it is Windows updates. Fully expect that to be Windows 12.

    • Bart

      This is how I am reading this. Every three years a new Windows version. Moments in between. Kind of makes sense. The Enterprise can lock down a version when it is released (no new features allowed) and consumers get a 'fresh' Windows more frequently. We know this can be done as Windows consists of components these days. Win/win situation IMHO.

      • feek

        Or enterprises toggle newly released features on and off at any point. Like how Microsoft has done to consumers and Insiders for years now.

    • ebraiter

      Assuming there is a Windows 12.

      You have some people saying they will skip upgrading Windows 10 to 11 and instead upgrade to windows 12. But since there has been no announcement of a "Windows 12" and still supporting Windows 8.1, 10 and 11, I don't think a Windows 12 will exist until after Windows 10 [and 8.1] are gone. It took them 5-6 years between Windows 10 & 11. If anything more than 3.5 years, Windows 10 won't be supported by then.

      • Maverick010

        This actually makes sense to those who have grown up with Microsoft and Windows 2.5-3.5yr launch cycle. It seems Microsoft is going back to old school but also with some new school in the mix. Old school would be a major full feature OS update every 3yrs with the moments being mini updates including possibly major enough app updates for the OS in between.

  2. blue77star

    I usually don't comment on anything but I have to on this one. I really do not understand why Microsoft did not drops numbers by now. All we really need to have is OS called Windows versions (Like Ubuntu does). Windows version 2207, 2209, 2301 (Example - where first two digits indicate year and other two a month).

    • SvenJ

      They did that a few years ago, but kept missing the month, so went to 21H1 (half 1), 21H2 (half 2). Should just go to 22ST (some time).

    • F4IL

      I believe Ubuntu consistently follows a versioning scheme that goes like Ubuntu 22.04 (LTS) as well. They have been doing so for some 20 years: the OS is called Ubuntu, 22.04 means it was released in April 2022 and LTS means it gets 5 years of support. This falls under the fixed release distribution model and is similar to what you get with Windows.

      There are distributions however, like Archlinux (Arch), which do not feature version qualifiers but those get security, bugfix and feature updates continuously. Those systems belong to the general family of rolling release distributions and thus have no version.

      msft adopted the first model because businesses and enterprise environments require a fixed feature-set with extended support and minimal disruption.

  3. jckhdg

    This actually makes a lot of sense... three years places the release of Windows 12 (or whatever they call it) in 2024, ahead of the planned end of support for Windows 10. This will allow Microsoft to offer some sort of upgrade for Windows 10 users whose hardware doesn't meet the Windows 11 requirements. They could drop the ridiculous requirements (like the arbitrary supported processor list) altogether, or offer two versions of the new OS, perhaps a standard and an enhanced security version.

  4. davepete

    I wish Microsoft would just switch everything to version numbers (like Apple). What's wrong with 11.1, 11.2, 11.3 for minor releases; and 12.0, 13.0, etc., for major releases. It's very clear. Today nobody can keep track when there's a 22H2 for both Windows 10 *AND* Windows 11.

  5. Thretosix

    So Windows 11 isn't everything they lie that it is... I'm so sick of Microsoft.

  6. winner

    Every 3 years is about the right amount of time for evolutions in advertising!...

  7. navarac

    Microsoft cannot make up their mind about anything, and are changing the goal posts for Windows every week. I feel Windows is a 3rd class entity within Microsoft now-a-days.

  8. bluvg

    Three years? Nah. They will have changed their plans again in three years.

  9. SherlockHolmes

    Next update for me: 2029 at the earliest :-P

  10. will

    So this is a just a confusing mess from Microsoft.

    IMO, if they are going to stick with a major release every three years (aka WIndows 95, 98, 2000 model) then the next BIG Windows update should be Windows 12. Each year between they can do releases for 11 and it could be 11.1, 11.2, 11.3, etc and they can tie features to those updates. They could also call it something else, but have a set pattern in place that makes since for everyone.

    Right now the Windows Team is like a group of people that says "We will do what we want, when we want" and honestly this messaging or work model needs to mature and change.

    I am 100% behind the idea of major updates in the 3yr cycle, with annual or semi-annual updates in between. Just don't call it "Windows 11" in 3 years.

  11. geoff

    I vividly remember the bad-old-days of getting a major Windows update every 3 (or so) years. It was terrible!

    Large 'enterprise' customers would have a large team of people who would make and test the SOE. There would be a new version of Windows, and of course a new version of Office too. And a new set of 'company approved' devices to run it on. Once every printer driver and browser add-in and in-house developed application was tested and approved, it would then be locked down 100% so no one could - god forbid! - change anything.

    Then the technical writers would create training and reference material. The help desk would get flow charts and talking scripts for dealing with the issues. All users would have in-person training on what had changed. A minor move of a Control Panel item would meet with huge push-back and calls to undo that change.

    Eventually (about 1 service pack and/or one year later) the roll-out would start. Change Champions (in custom shirts and caps) would roam the company, floor by floor, helping users with the new version, and dealing with issues. New PCs would be piled high in the break room. Spare PCs would be on hand for anything that failed. Training would be ramped up. People on level 23 would discover that the spreadsheet they get from someone on level 12 was now in a different format and that macro they use no longer runs, and won't do so until they too get the new SOE. Deployment schedules would be changed. The finance team would refuse to be upgraded, and so they get continually pushed to the back of the queue until they can't hold out any longer. The field support team want it immediately, but don't have budget for the new PCs (and IT won't let them run it on their existing PCs, despite each team knowing that it 100% will). The IT team would refuse to use the standard hardware, because they - and only they - needed more RAM. The HR team is three devices short because that team has grown since the project plan was funded. Everyone forgot about that suburban office that does something-or-other. etc. etc. etc.

    9 to 12 months later, the roll-out is declared 'finished' and the deployment team get a staff morning tea, and they all get a commemorative project coffee mug. Well done everyone! And some movie tickets for Trevor who fixed that issue with a VIP way back in week 7. But no one is enthusiastic, because they're all sure that the printer driver issue has been kicked down the road a bit, not genuinely fixed. There's now a sly 'printer fleet refresh' project that will, hopefully, get to the worst trouble spots first.

    These were horrible times.

    The answer is more-frequent, but much smaller, continuous change. Monolithic 'mega' changes require massive change projects. Please! Let's not go back to those days.

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