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Windows 10 to run rings around customers

Gregg Keizer | July 14, 2015
Microsoft's top operating system executive today confirmed that the two main Windows 10 update and upgrade "branches" will offer customers multiple "rings," or tempos, that they can select to receive changes quickly or after they've been tested by others.

The plethora of branches and rings, and their staggered releases -- which will result in a 16-month active lifespan for any one build because of delayed deployment options for CBB users -- has raised questions about fragmentation that could affect developers and support teams, or make management more complicated for corporate IT staffs.

Analysts, however, have largely discounted such concerns, saying that while Windows 10 will create some fragmentation, ultimately it will create a more uniform ecosystem than the current Windows scene.

"For customers and developers, it won't be too different than targeting all the Windows versions and service packs that they have to today," agreed Gary Chen, an analyst at IDC. ""There are really only four rings that matter, [the two each in] CB and CBB, and a business may only be concerned about CBB, so that's effectively two rings to manage, not a big change from what they support today."

Today, Myerson again denigrated what he dubbed "selective patching" to make a less-than-subtle pitch for adoption of CCB served by the new Windows Update for Business (WUB) service. "This introduces costs, complexities and delays," Myerson said of selective patching and updating. "In today's threat environment, that's a problem." WUB will deliver all update changes, eliminating the pick-a-patch practice used by many IT administrators for decades. (Shops on CBB may also use the traditional WSUS -- Windows Server Update Services -- to selectively deploy updates.)

Myerson also reiterated the strategy of Windows 10, which Microsoft has characterized as "Windows as a service," by emphasizing the continual updates and upgrades that will reach customers. "We're committed to continuous upgrades of [the] Windows device base," he said.

While Myerson also used the phrase the supported lifetime of the device today in talking about updates, he did not define it. That phrase has been dissected since its first use in January because it will restrict the time that free updates and upgrades will be offered to Windows 10. Late last month, the Redmond, Wash. company said that device lives would range from two to four years.

In that disclosure -- a footnote on a presentation outlining how Microsoft will defer some revenue from Windows 10 -- Microsoft said the device lifetime would be calculated on "customer type," hinting that it would separate consumer and business device owners, probably by sniffing out the edition of Windows 10 running on the device.

What still remains unclear is which devices will receive feature/functionality and UI/UX updates and upgrades for the minimum of two years, which get the maximum of four, and which are part of an in-between span.


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