Microsoft's Windows 10: Anniversary Update to hit August 2; 350 million devices and counting

Microsoft will release Windows 10 on August 2 across the more than 350 million active devices where it is now running, and on other coming new PCs, phones, and more.

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Image: ZDNet

Microsoft will make generally available its Windows 10 Anniversary Update on August 2, four days after the one year anniversary of when the company initially launched Windows 10.

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What to expect from the Windows 10 Anniversary Update

The unconventional evolution of Windows 10 continues with the upcoming release of the Anniversary Update, version 1607. It's not just a service pack. Here's what's new.

The release date is in keeping with Microsoft-set expectations. Microsoft officials have been saying for a while to expect the Windows team to make the Anniversary Update, codenamed "Redstone 1," available on or around July 29 this year.

Microsoft's goal is to deliver all of the variants of the Anniversary Update of Windows 10 across all of the devices it supports -- PCs, tablets, Windows Phones, Surface Hub, Xbox One, Internet of Things devices, and HoloLens -- on August 2, said Windows and devices group executive vice president Terry Myerson.

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update will be made available to the users running it on the now more than 350 million active Windows 10 devices (up from 300 million in early May). It also will be available to users who want to buy retail copies or new devices on which the Anniversary Update will be preloaded. All of these users will get the Anniversary Update for free. Windows 7 and 8.X users who haven't taken advantage of Microsoft's offer to update to Windows 10 for free by July 29 will have to either buy new devices running Windows 10 or pay for a retail copy of Windows 10 to get the Anniversary Update.

Windows Insiders have been testing builds of Windows 10 Anniversary Update for the last several months. Microsoft is continuing to test the release, with the latest Windows 10 preview builds for PCs and Windows Phones arriving just last night. The Anniversary Update release will include the new features, fixes, and updates that testers have seen during that time.

Myerson, with whom I spoke last week about the coming update, said there are six major buckets of new features coming in the Anniversary Update. The six: More enterprise security features; Edge browser improvements, including extension support; Windows Ink for better pen use; new Cortana enhancements; and cross-device gaming support.

On the enterprise front, Enterprise Data Protection, which has been renamed "Windows Information Protection," will debut as part of Windows 10. This enterprise feature, which Microsoft officials have been touting since 2014, provides file-level encryption for business data and apps in the name of data separation and leak prevention.

The other major, brand-new enterprise security feature which will ship as part of the Anniversary Update is the Windows 10 Defender Advanced Threat Protection threat-intelligence and attack detection service. Sources had told me Microsoft was aiming to make this service available some time in the third calendar quarter of 2016. Extensive testing -- by 300 enterprises and with 700,000 endpoints -- resulted in the service being ready to roll with the Anniversary Update, Myerson said.

While Myerson declined to say when the company will deliver Redstone 2, sources of mine have said for a while now that it won't be until Spring 2017, rather than late 2016 as originally planned. The delay, my contacts said, is the result of Microsoft wanting to sync its next big Microsoft-branded hardware launch with the next major update to Windows 10.

In the coming months, "new devices from our partners is our next priority," Myerson said. Plus the company will continue to deliver its monthly security updates as part of its push to make Windows work more like a service.

Microsoft also announced today a new back-to-school promotion via which students can get $300 off when buying an Xbox One and Surface together at Microsoft Stores through August 14.

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