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Windows Insider Program gets a new leader as Gabe Aul steps down

For the past 20 months, Microsoft's Gabe Aul has been the public face of the Windows 10 pre-release program. Effective immediately, he's turning over the reins to an engineer with "deep roots in Windows."

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This big red button is used to release new builds to the Windows Insider program.

Photo: Gabe Aul, via Thingiverse

Since its unveiling in late 2014, the Windows Insider Program has had a single face. Gabe Aul has been responsible for pushing the "big red button" (yes, there really is such a thing) that releases new pre-release builds of Windows 10 to customers who've opted into the Insider program.

Over the past 20 months, by Aul's count, Microsoft has released 35 PC builds and 22 Mobile builds to Insiders. That's in stark contrast to the Windows 7 and Windows 8 development efforts, which he notes had only 2 or 3 public pre-release builds each.

Today, Aul announced that he's turning over the reins of the Insider team to Dona Sarkar, another longtime Microsoft engineer with "deep roots in Windows."

Sarkar was responsible for leading the teams that built several of my favorite features in earlier Windows versions, including the search end-to-end experience in Windows 7 and Windows 8 and the "magic" that syncs settings and app data between Windows 10 PCs using a Microsoft account.

Most recently, she has been working on the HoloLens team.

The timing of today's announcement is no accident. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update is due to ship in less than 60 days, which means that most preview builds between now and the final release date will be focused on stabilization and fine-grained changes to the user interface. The next major feature update for Windows 10 isn't expected to arrive until early in 2017.

Aul has been particularly beloved by members of the Insider program, thanks in no small measure to his constant presence on Twitter as @gabeaul. With more than 129,000 followers and 8500+ tweets, Aul delivers a steady mix of news, one-on-one support, and the occasional sly one-liner.

Aul's next role as Vice President of Engineering Systems in the Windows and Devices group will have him working full time on the tools that Microsoft's engineers use to build Windows. According to Aul, that includes "our planning and work management systems, source code management, build infrastructure, and test automation systems."

That's no small job, given that the company has five acres of build machines and moves 35 exabytes of data per day in the process of developing, building, and testing Windows.