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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.'

Windows patch

Microsoft will radically revamp which Windows updates customers receive starting with Windows 10, a move analysts said was the biggest-ever change in the firm's update practices.

"Call this 'Goldilocks and the Three OS Cadences,'" razzed Michael Silver of Gartner in an interview. "This is [Microsoft's] answer to the update cadence issue for enterprises, and what organizations want."

Silver was talking about updating changes that will debut in Windows 10 , the upgrade slated to ship by mid-2015. In a Tuesday blog, Microsoft mentioned, almost in passing, how it will service the new OS, and presumably, those after it too.

In that blog, Microsoft sketched out a three-tiered updating plan that would let customers choose between a "fast-moving consumer pace," a "lock-down" tempo, and one in between, which it didn't name.

Rather than the historical offer-everything-to-everyone updating policy -- which has relied on security patches during the approximately three years between each edition of Windows -- Microsoft will create three different "tracks" that customers can essentially subscribe to.

"Windows 10 will be delivered in a way that gives more choice and flexibility to businesses," wrote Jim Alkove, the head of Microsoft's Windows enterprise program management team, in the Tuesday blog. "As a result, a business can pick the speed of innovation that is right for each group of its users, rather than apply a one size fits all solution."

Silver called the three "consumer speed," "near-consumer speed" and "long-term."

The first will include all changes, including security patches, new features and user interface (UI) changes, as well as upgrades from, say, Windows 10 to Windows 10.1, if Microsoft uses that numerical naming convention. Adopting the consumer speed tempo means customers will receive all updates as soon as Microsoft has them ready.

Microsoft had tipped its hand about consumer speed -- although it never used that phrase -- in August when it said future feature updates would be delivered more frequently and in smaller packets using the monthly Patch Tuesday-Windows Update combination. Most have interpreted that to mean monthly, or at the least, near-monthly, changes to the OS.

Consumer speed will probably be warmly received by consumers -- most of whom automatically accept every Windows update -- and put Microsoft even with Google and ahead of Apple, which adds features to and makes UI changes in OS X (and iOS) only once each year.

Few businesses, however, will be willing to accept such a quick cadence. That was made clear earlier this year when Microsoft got pushback from enterprises when it told them they were required to deploy Windows 8.1 Update within 30 days or be denied future security fixes. (Microsoft quickly recanted, extending the deadline for commercial customers to 120 days.)


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