Explaining the 1903/1909 Explanation (Premium)

Prompted by well-deserved criticism, those responsible for explaining what’s happening to Windows 10 have explained their recent inability to communicate clearly.

Naturally, it comes in the form of a short update to a previous blog post that no one will even notice. Because, again---and I apologize for beating this to death---this organization cannot explain anything clearly or effectively.

Here’s what’s happening.

On Monday, Microsoft again amped up the confusion around the current version of Windows 10 (1903) and the next (19H2, now called 1909). As you may know, this year Microsoft dramatically changed how it is testing future version(s) of Windows 10 by pushing Windows Insiders on the Fast ring to 20H1, a version of Windows 10 that won’t ship until the first half of 2020. But it didn’t explain what was happening to Windows 10 version 19H2, the next version of Windows 10, until months later.

Why it was silent on this topic for so long is still unknown, but the short version is that 19H1 is being treated as a service pack of sorts, and it will be delivered to customers as a cumulative update, not a feature update. 19H1 will come with no new features enabled by default; what few new features there are will need to be enabled manually by users. Which is fine. But it didn’t begin testing 19H2 with Insiders in the Slow ring until very late in July.

Since then, there has been controversy, and this cuts to the heart of the (lack of) effectiveness of the Insider program: Instead of just testing 19H2, Microsoft has escalated its practice of A/B testing, such that only 10 percent of Slow ring members saw the new features. As always, Microsoft offered no way to opt-in or opt-out of new 19H1 features, an issue for many Insiders, since they explicitly signed up to test Windows 10. What most Insiders have experienced, in both the Fast ring and Slow ring over time, is a random system by which they install builds and hope to see new features.

And then it got weirder: This week, Microsoft pushed 19H2 to the Release Preview ring too. But it continued its practice of A/B testing, with only 10 percent of those testers seeing new features. And, more confusingly, it instituted a new build numbering scheme without really explaining it.

Today, in that blog post addendum, Microsoft is finally explaining the new build numbering scheme more clearly.

“To offer a clarification on these releases, 19H1 [the retroactively renamed 1903] and 19H2 [which is now called 1909] share the same servicing content,” the explanation begins. “That means they share the same Cumulative Update package.”

I assume they mean the same cumulative update packages: That, going forward, each time a CU is released for Windows 10 version 1903, it will be released in identical form for 1909 as well. (This must dramatically simplify Microsoft’s servicing needs, as an aside.)

“For the small subset of Windows Insiders (the 10%) in Release Previ...

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