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Microsoft takes yet another shot at defining 'free' for Windows 10 testers

Gregg Keizer | June 24, 2015
Stay on the Insider branch forever and everything's green

Insider is key to Microsoft's one-step-at-a-time testing of feature, functionality, UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) updates.

Once Microsoft completes an update internally, it will be seeded to Insiders, and Insiders only, who will run it for at least a month. At the end of that month, Microsoft will decide if the update is suitably stable -- and that bugs uncovered by participants have been patched -- for the much larger number of consumers tapped into the "Current Branch" distribution track.

Current Branch users will then install and run the update, again for about a month, again uncovering flaws or problems, before Microsoft greenlights said update for the "Current Branch for Business," the track for Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise, and the cadence Microsoft wants most corporate PCs to adopt.

Both Insider and Current Branch will thus play the role of lab rat for Current Branch for Business users, testing updates before they're released to Microsoft's most important customers: enterprises.

Without a suitable number of Insiders, that plan is in trouble, and bugs that should have been caught will instead worm their way onto hundreds of millions of consumer PCs, creating a PR and fix-it-fast nightmare. Or worse, corporate machines get a buggy update, or more accurately, a buggier update than Microsoft intended, a risk enterprise-dependent Redmond simply can't afford.

By giving customers, no matter how they came to Windows 10, a way to continue running the Insider branch -- and giving those ineligible for the free upgrade the motivation to get on Insider -- Microsoft ensures that the pool of testers remains large enough to serve its purpose.


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