Microsoft’s Plan to Upgrade and Update Windows 10 for Desktop and Mobile

Posted on March 18, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 0 Comments

You may recall that during my trip to Microsoft’s Redmond campus for the January Windows 10 event I was told that the software giant had a plan to get Windows Phone customers upgraded to Windows 10 and then keep upgrading them going forward. This is important because Windows Phone is almost impossible to upgrade thanks to recalcitrant wireless carriers. Today, we finally got a bit of information about that plan, and it involves Windows 10 on PCs and tablets too.

We don’t yet have a video for the WinHEC session—Upgrading to Windows 10—at which this information was first publicly presented. But here’s what we can glean from the downloadable slide deck.

New guidance for businesses. “For the first time,” Microsoft notes, “enterprises are encouraged to upgrade desktops, instead of reimage, making the deployment process less daunting.” You may not realize what a big change that is, nor what hand-wringing this will trigger in rightfully-distrusting businesses. We’ll see how that one goes.

Update (not upgrade). Microsoft defines the word “update” to mean “to modify an existing OS by changing or removing files.” On desktop PCs—and presumably tablets—this means updating with “KBs, patches or hotfixes.” Which are all the same thing. Via Windows Update for the most part. On mobile (Windows Phone today, and small tablets soon), this means “GDRs, QFEs, or BSP updates,” which are likewise all basically the same thing, “or even moving from Windows 8.0 (Apollo) to Windows 8.1 (Blue).” For Windows 10, update is the term used when Microsoft talks about modifying Windows 10 after it ships.

Upgrade (not update). Microsoft defines the word “upgrade” to mean “laying down the new OS, migrating data, drivers, applications and settings from the old OS to the new OS, then deleting the old OS files” for PCs and tablets. On mobile, “the terms upgrade and update are used interchangeably.  From a technology perspective, everything’s an update.” Upgrade is the term used to refer to moving to Windows 10. So you upgrade to Windows 10, then you update Windows 10 going forward.

How you will get the Windows 10 upgrade. As you know, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade to existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 customers. Here is how they will be able to get this free upgrade.


Upgrading from Windows Phone. No surprise here, but the “upgrade will be available like any other update, much like moving from Windows Phone 8.0 (Apollo) to Windows Phone 8.1 (Blue).” But the question is, how will Microsoft bypass the carriers? It notes that can opt-in “Zero-Rate” updates to encourage customers to get the latest updates. But few will do that. So the plan is … what? Goodwill? Hope and pray? I don’t get it. There’s some technical info around “partition stitching” and AK Updates and other nonsense, but that has nothing to do with getting wireless carriers to give up their evil ways. This remains a mystery.

Updating Windows 10. Once all our devices—PCs, tablets and phones—are on Windows 10, the update process is identical for all. So that is actually a nice change.


Project Milkyway. Microsoft wants to “delight users by keeping their mobile devices [PCs, tablets and phones] updated to latest release within 4-6 weeks of release.” And its expectations for partners—which includes wireless carriers—is that they will “download, test and report issues per guidelines within specified time-frame.” That is hilarious, at least on the phone side. And it notes that “OEMs [i.e. wireless carriers] can control the groups of devices that receive an update.” So … nothing has changed?

I’ll need to watch the presentation when it’s available on video to see whether more information is communicated by the presenter. But based on these slides, I don’t see any reason to believe that anything will change on phone, and an accompanying Windows Dev Center page confirms this, noting that wireless carriers (e.g. mobile operators) need to approve updates before they’re delivered to customers.


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