Microsoft: Windows 10 Requires a Predictable Update Schedule

Posted on March 10, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 0 Comments

Microsoft: Windows 10 Requires a Predictable Update Schedule

The other day, I wrote about delays in the second Redstone milestone for Windows 10, and Brad has now confirmed this delay with his own sources. While this story is interesting on its own, there is a tangential issue related to the pace at which Windows 10 is updated that I think is far more important.

And it goes like this: Regardless of the timing for Redstone 2 and whatever features it may bring, Microsoft still needs to stick to a regular and predictable schedule for updating Windows 10. And that means that the software giant must issue a “milestone” release of the OS in late 2016, as previously scheduled, even if that milestone is a milestone in name only and contains no new features.

In fact, I think Microsoft should even more aggressively “milestone” Windows 10 once a quarter. But twice a year is the minimum that makes sense in this modern era.

To understand why, just reinstall Windows 8.1—as Brad did this week—or, God help you, Windows 7. And then wait, wait, and wait, and reboot repeatedly, while Windows installs an endless and time-consuming parade of software updates. Literally hundreds of them.

This does not happen with Windows 10 because updates are cumulative. So when you buy a new PC with Windows 10, or clean install or upgrade to Windows 10 yourself, you only have a handful of updates to worry about. It’s mostly seamless and automatic.

But there’s a fly in the ointment: For this to keep working, Microsoft needs to keep issuing milestone releases of Windows 10 that—aside from adding new features—roll-up all of the software updates its issued to date. That way, whenever someone starts with Windows 10—again, on a new PC or by installing/upgrading an existing PC—they’re starting with the freshest, most up-to-date version of the OS.

Microsoft can ensure that this happens by keeping its PC makers and the downloadable Windows 10 ISO up-to-date. So far, it has done so with both. But if it were to wait from mid-2016—the expected release date of Windows 10 “Redstone 1”—until early-2017, when “Redstone 2” is now due, to issue a milestone release, about 9 months will go by. And as that time goes by, new Windows 10 installs will be faced with ever-growing list of updates to install post-Setup.

Some of you are likely thinking, Paul. Come on. This is still better than the situation with Windows 7 or 8.1. And yes, that is absolutely true. But in the first 9 months of Windows 10’s life, we’ve already seen how much better it can be, because Microsoft has already released two milestone builds: RTM and 1511. And that experience shows us that this is a great—arguably, the “right”—schedule. Twice a year.

Under the original schedule, the first four Windows 10 releases would have maintained this twice a year cadence, with the following milestones:

RTM (Threshold 1): July 2015
1511 (Threshold 2): November 2015
Redstone 1 (“1606”): June 2016
Redstone 2 (“1611”): November 2016

Which is to say, not quite once every six months, but twice a year. But under the new schedule, we see a bigger gap between Redstone 1 and 2:

RTM (Threshold 1): July 2015
1511 (Threshold 2): November 2015
Redstone 1 (“1606”): June 2016
Redstone 2 (“1611”): March 2017

Microsoft’s “rapid release” system is a promise, and it’s a promise I think they should keep. And doing so just means adding a “1611” milestone and sticking to that twice-a-year schedule … forever. It’s the right way to keep Windows 10 and its users up-to-date. And it’s even more important, in the long term, than new features.