Microsoft to add Windows Update for Business option for Windows 10 users

Microsoft is providing IT pros with more granular levels of control over how Windows 10 as a service will work.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is continuing to flesh out the details as to how it will provide users with new features and fixes for Windows 10, as part of its "Windows as a Service" strategy.

During opening day of Microsoft Ignite, the company's show for IT professionals, Microsoft execs introduced the concept of "Windows Update for Business" -- a new addition to Microsoft's family of updating and servicing mechanisms that will come online with Windows 10.

Microsoft's message here at Ignite, attended by 23,000, according to the company, is that IT Pros will still have control over the servicing and updating process with Windows 10. Winning over business and IT Pro users with Windows 10 is key for Microsoft if it hopes to reach its 1 billion Windows 10 devices by 2018 goal.

In January, Microsoft execs announced that the company planned to make Windows 10 updates and fixes available in different ways and different paces for its various customer constituencies. Today at Ignite, Microsoft execs got more specific about what these differences will look like.

Consumers who move to Windows 10 will regularly receive all new features, security updates and other fixes to the operating system for free for the supported lifetime of their devices. (Exact details as to what this "lifetime of their devices" period includes are still not being disclosed in full.) Consumers won't have a choice as to which updates they get or don't; they'll get them all via Windows Update. This group of Windows 10 customers will be on the Current Branch.

(A somewhat related aside: Microsoft also is considering adding some new Windows 10 testing rings to the current Fast and Slow Windows 10 preview rings that it currently offers, including a new "Ludicrous" ring. Those servicing rings would get test versions of new Windows 10 features and updates even more rapidly and regularly.)

Windows 10 Enterprise customers will have the option to receive security updates only -- and no new features -- as part of the Windows 10 "Long Term Servicing" branch. Enterprises will be able to control the pace at which their Windows 10 users get these security updates via existing updating mechanisms like System Center Configuration Manager, Enterprise Mobility Suite and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

But there's another class of Windows 10 customers: End users at work who aren't running mission-critical devices and apps. These users will be able to get new features, security updates and other fixes to Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise devices for free, but at a more measured pace. These users will get these updates and fixes via the new Windows Update for Business service.

Windows Update for Business will give IT Pros more control over how and when these features and fixes roll out to their users.With Windows Update for Business, IT pros can decide which machines get updates first and which get them later. They'll be able to deliver patches to branch offices and sites with limited bandwidth via peer-to-peer delivery. And they'll be able to integrate these updates with their System Center and Enterprise Mobility Suite management tools.

Microsoft execs didn't elaborate today on how long they'll be providing new features, security updates and fixes for Windows 10. Back in January 2015, however, officials said those in the Long Term Servicing Branches for Windows 10 would get security updates for the duration of mainstream support (five years) and extended support (five additional years). Microsoft officials also are not yet ready to provide a full list of Windows 10 SKUs (I asked).

Why is Microsoft making new Windows 10 features and updates available on a regular basis to customers, largely for free?

Part of the reason is more up-to-date systems and customers are more satisfied and more secure.

Today, Microsoft drops a bunch of patches every Patch Tuesday which can be deployed or delayed by consumers and business customer. By staggering how Microsoft delivers patches and updates plus testing them via preview flights ahead of time, the company can improve quality and delivery, said Microsoft Operating Systems Group chief Terry Myerson. With Windows Update and Windows Update for Business, Windows 10 patches will be installed cumulatively and in order, he said.

Microsoft also is looking to differentiate itself from Google with its proactive Windows 10 updating strategy.

"In contrast to Google, which doesn't make sure its updates make it onto Android devices , exposing its enterprise and consumer customers to risk, Microsoft will be shipping regular updates to Windows 10 devices to make sure it's the most secure," Myerson said.

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