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Microsoft reveals biggest-ever change in Windows updates

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 7, 2014
Windows 10 will debut a radical three-track update practice to appease both consumer and enterprise customers; analyst dubs it 'Goldilocks and the Three OS Cadences.'

Instead, enterprises will likely gravitate toward the tempo that Silver dubbed "long-term" and which Microsoft characterized as "lock-down [for] mission critical environments." That pace will provide only "security and critical updates to their systems," said Alkove. (It was unclear what separated "security" from "critical" in Microsoft's parlance.)

The long-term update pace will exclude new features and UI changes, said Silver, and consist of only security and other performance and reliability fixes. Companies will be able to manage those incoming updates as they do now with Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and other corporate patch-management tools.

Sitting between consumer speed and long-term will be what Silver named "near-consumer speed." As the name implied, it will be a mix of the fastest and slowest update cadences.

"In near-consumer speed Microsoft will release a bunch of updates, and you'll have about four months to deploy them," said Silver.

That timetable -- four months -- was the same that Microsoft settled on for Windows 8.1 Update, which shipped in April. Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, believed the time span came out of that experience, and that Windows 8.1 Update was a trial balloon floated by Microsoft to figure out what enterprises would tolerate.

Silver disagreed. "I'm not sure [the Windows 8.1 Update] was that well thought out," he said.

Silver drew comparisons between the Windows 8.1 Update process and Microsoft's near-consumer pace, however, sure that under the cadence, customers who did not apply the feature and UI changes within the four-month stretch would be cut off from security patches.

Business will be able to decide which devices running Windows 10 "subscribe" to which update tempo, giving some machines, for example, a constant stream of consumer speed updates, even as most are locked down to receive only security patches.

"The choice isn't one or the other for businesses; we expect that most will require a mixed approach where a number of scenarios can be accommodated," Alkove bet.

Both Silver and Miller applauded the three-track plan.

"This is exactly what they needed to do," said Miller of the attempt to mollify both consumer and commercial customers.

"It's admirable that Microsoft has gone that far to give folks the three choices," said Silver. "'Long-term speed' is what organizations want. They want stuff to get fixed, but they don't want changes that muck up the works. That's been true since at least Windows NT Option Pack 4."

Windows NT Option Pack 4 dates back to 1999, and was Microsoft's response to criticism from businesses, which told the Redmond, Wash. company that they did not want new features and functionality in the service packs the firm had been pushing. Microsoft broke out the new features from the service packs, then offered them as opt-in option packs.

"I think this is a step in the right direction," concluded Silver.


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