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Patch Tuesday: Not dead yet

Gregg Keizer | July 27, 2015
Patch Tuesday is not dead.

Asked whether security updates would be packaged within Windows 10's expected regular tempo of feature and functionality updates -- as was an emergency Windows 10 patch distributed July 15 and several more since then -- and released to users via the OS's multiple cadences, dubbed "branches" and "rings," the spokesman declined to comment. "Microsoft has nothing to share on that at this time," the spokesman said in an email, using one of the company's standard lines.

Two months ago, some security pros criticized Microsoft for not being more forthcoming. "Microsoft's communications have gone to near zero," said Andrew Storms, vice president of security services at consultancy New Context, in a May interview. "To some degree, that's part of the reason why everyone is confused."

Microsoft's reticence may have exacerbated the confusion, but it largely stemmed from the radical overhaul of the Windows update, upgrade and servicing model. Rather than ploddingly roll out a new OS every three years, Microsoft will continually deliver new tools and functionality, new user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) features and enhancements over the life of Windows 10.

Microsoft has long updated Windows on a regular basis, but only in the form of security patches and bug fixes. They will now be accompanied by more visible improvements. But how the two categories -- in Microsoft's parlance, "non-security" and "security" updates, the former encompassing everything but patches -- interact, intersect and overlap, or even if they do at all, is the foundation of the mystery.

Because Microsoft has been feeding off-the-cuff security updates that also include non-security content to Windows Insiders -- the people who have opted in to the Windows 10 preview program -- many have concluded that that will be the norm for everyone, or at the least, consumers on the "Current Branch" (CB), the earliest-to-get-updates mainstream track that's the only one available to customers running Windows 10 Home.

"That's the only cadence that people are seeing right now," Goettl pointed out.

But there's no guarantee that how Microsoft ships security updates to the Insider group will be the way it treats the Current Branch. Gabriel Aul, engineering general manager for Microsoft's OS group, hinted at that possibility Tuesday. "The experience you're having is because you're in the Insider program. Not how the rest of the world will experience," Aul tweeted when a user griped about the barrage of updates to Insider build 10240.

Even with the muddy waters, Goettl remained convinced that consumers would no longer see Patch Tuesday, at least as it's been known in the past. "Consumers will get things as they come out," he said today, reiterating his position of May. "They'll have little choice on it, but that's okay. Consumers have the least knowledge [about patches] and they shouldn't be making the decision. Windows 10 will be like the Apple model [for Macs], and that's in [consumers'] best interest."

 

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