Responding to IT pros who have found the pace of Windows 10 feature updates is too fast, Microsoft is relenting on how long it will support new feature updates to the operating system. The company isn't backing off from releasing two Windows 10 feature updates per year. That policy, via which Microsoft releases new feature updates around March and September each year, isn't going away.
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Instead, Microsoft is moving to a new support schedule for Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions only which will, in effect, allow those users to only update their operating systems every other year. Here's how this will work.
First off, for Windows 10 Home, Pro and Office 365 ProPlus customers, nothing changes. The twice-yearly feature updates to these products will be supported for 18 months for both the March and September feature releases. Windows 10 Enterprise and Education customers are the ones affected by the changes announced Sept. 6.
All currently supported feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions (versions 1607, 1703, 1709 and 1803) will be supported for 30 months -- 2.5 years -- from their original release date. And all future feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions with a targeted release month of September (starting with 1809/the October 2018 Update) will be supported for 30 months from their release date.
Rather confusingly, future feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions with a targeted release month of March (starting with 1903/Windows 10 19H1) will continue to be supported for 18 months from their release date. Microsoft officials say this 18 month support date remains to support those who are OK with the faster Windows 10 feature update rollout pace.
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Why did Microsoft extend the support period for the fall/September updates and not the spring/March ones? Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft 365 said the company believes that customers are more likely to update in the fall because of budget cycles and when "high bandwidth conversations" about the updates occur -- i.e., Ignite, Microsoft's IT Pro conference is in the fall.
I asked Spataro if the difference in support for the spring/fall updates indicated that Microsoft considers the spring update to be "minor" and the fall one, "major." He said that's not the case.
"The semi-annual cadence is still our North Star," he said. "We want to keep kicking that can down the road."
Even though Enterprise and Education customers will be able to apply feature updates to Windows 10 only once every other year and still be supported, he said he doesn't think most will go that route, especially because of the security advances that are part of the twice-annual feature updates. He said he doubted enterprise customers would be on-board with not taking advantage of the latest security technology for two years at a time.
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Before today, Microsoft was extending support for Windows 10 Enterprise and Education users on a piecemeal basis. Last year, Microsoft added six months of additional support for Windows 10 1511 for those users. In February this year, Microsoft did the same for Windows 10 1607, 1703 and 1709. The extensions bumped the support period from 18 months to 24 months for those customers, giving them "a little extra time to implement Windows as a service."
I think it's commendable that Microsoft is (finally) conceding that the twice-annual Windows 10 feature update pace isn't realistic for some of its key customers. And I'll be curious how many opt to apply feature updates every other year, in spite of Microsoft's security argument.
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