There are still a lot of unanswered questions about Windows 10, with just over a month to go before the operating system starts rolling out to some customer segments. And many of these questions involve Microsoft's Windows-as-a-Service plans.
Just this week, thanks to Gartner Inc., I learned that some Windows 10 users won't get Microsoft's Edge ("Spartan") browser -- the new default browser for Windows 10. Customers with Windows 10 Enterprise edition won't get Edge on any machines that are on the Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB), according to Gartner. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to me that this is, indeed, the case.
The LTSB is an option available only to Windows 10 Enterprise customers. Machines on the LTSB will receive only security and hot fixes, and no new features, for ten years. LTSB is an option for customers running mission-critical or otherwise locked-down applications who cannot risk having new features and feature updates pushed to them.
One could argue that anyone who doesn't want new features and feature updates will likely be running Internet Explorer 11 -- which will be available to Windows 10 PC and laptop users -- rather than the new Edge browser. Microsoft is making IE11 available to Windows 10 PC customers for legacy support reasons.
But the reason Microsoft won't provide Edge to Enterprise users on LTSB is because the company expects to roll out new features and feature updates to Edge on a regular basis, as both Gartner and Microsoft officials note. That means it would be kind of pointless to include the evolving Edge browser if it's not going to be updated.
I wondered whether there will be other Windows 10 features Microsoft won't provide to Enterprise users on the LTSB. Because Windows 10 Enterprise won't be launching until some time this fall, I'm hearing, Microsoft execs won't talk much about it. (It's Windows 10 Home and Pro editions that will be available starting July 29 to customers who opt into Microsoft's year-long first-year-free upgrade promotion. We don't have an exact launch date for Enterprise so far.)
Gartner analyst Michael Silver said he hasn't heard of anything else that Windows 10 Enterprise users on LTSB won't get. However, he cautioned that "all modern apps are going to be hit-or-miss."
"When LTSB starts out, all Universal Windows Apps should work, but as the 'modern half' of Windows evolves on the other branches, it won't change on an LTSB release," Silver explained. "So at some point, Universal Windows Apps from the public (Windows) Store may not work on an older LTSB, even ones that used to work, because they may eventually be updated with new features that rely on updates to Windows."
LTSB is just one of several Windows-as-a-service branches that Microsoft is introducing with Windows 10. (The chart embedded above in this post, which Microsoft has provided to its reseller partners, clarifies the availability of the various servicing branches a bit.)
There also will be a Current Branch available to users of all versions of Windows 10 which will push all security, hot fix and new feature updates to customers once released by Microsoft. And there will be a Current Business Branch, as well, which will allow Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Education and Windows 10 Enterprise users to postpone new feature updates for some set period of time before they must accept them. Microsoft officials are not sharing more specifics about the Current Business Branch at this time, a spokesperson said.
Speaking of updating to Windows 10, I've been getting questions from a number of readers who are concerned that they have not yet seen the "Get Windows 10" upgrade icon appear in their system trays. The icon is meant to remind users they are eligible to upgrade to Windows 10 on their PCs, laptops and tablets starting July 29, 2015, and through July 29, 2016, for free if they're running Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1.
There are several reasons users on these operating systems might not get the "Get Windows 10" icon pushed to them, including if they are part of a domain-joined PC network. But some users aren't getting the icon because they may be on PCs, laptops or tablets that the company has yet to establish will run Windows 10 easily and well on Day 1 of availability, a spokesperson said. Some time shortly after July 29, Microsoft will make Get Windows 10 icon available to users who didn't get it beforehand, and users will be able to check compatibility using that app.