The Windows 10 19H2 train has finally left the station! This week saw the long-awaited release of the first preview build of this new version to Insiders for testing.
Windows 10 build 18362.10000 landed in the Slow ring of the preview program on July 1.
Months later than expected, and a whole season after it was promised. Microsoft had initially planned to get this out in spring, but most of the world is enjoying the summer now. Interestingly, the deadline being missed is not the big news here, that is tragically common in software development.The bigger question is whether we are witnessing a shift in how Windows is developed and launched? Half a decade in, is the Windows 10 development process logically evolving? Should we start ringing the alarm bells?
Far too many questions here.
What exactly is happening?
Before we get to the juicy bits, let’s back up and little and go over a few details. It was back in February that Microsoft shocked everyone by releasing the first Windows 10 20H1 build to Skip Ahead Insiders, leading to all manners of speculation in the community.
You see, this is typically the time when we start seeing previews for the update meant to release in the second half of the year.
Yet, there was no sign of Windows 10 19H2.
The company assured everyone that this version was not cancelled, and was in fact coming in spring. It followed this up by flighting a 20H1 build to the Fast ring, which essentially meant that a version of 19H2 would only have landed in the Slow ring, which it finally did this month — smack in the middle of summer.
Of course, as Brandon LeBlanc of Microsoft suggested, we are better off if we focus on bigger issues here, rather than debating semantics and seasons.
The point being, it is not exactly easy keeping promises in this fierce world of technology. Circumstances change, plans get redefined, schedules get revised, sometimes due to issues beyond human control.
Not everyone will be satisfied with this.
More so, fans of the Insider program that spend their time testing and reporting issues with these preview builds. And people have made noises, expressly highlighting the lack of effective communication from the company on the development priorities and release dates.
Cause for Concern?
To be frank, there has never been a dull moment in the development the Windows operating system. Even the old versions of yesteryears came with their own set of nags and snags during development, certain features taking more time, or being removed altogether.
With the arrival of Windows 10, Microsoft did try to bring a little sense and sensibility into the development process by enlisting Windows Insiders and creating cycles for the various versions. The idea being to enlist enthusiasts to play a part in the development of the OS. Crowdsource it.
That, in fact, was the whole point of the Windows Insider Program.
Just how well has the software giant been able to manage that is another debate for another day.
Fact remains that the Slow ring of the preview program has become a bit of a joke. Microsoft has rarely been able to hit its target of monthly builds in this channel. The Flight Hub paints this depressing picture, with there not being a Slow ring build during 19H1 development up until the about three weeks before the RTM build made an appearance in the Fast ring.
A Lack of Ambition?
One common knock on the Windows platform lately has been the lack of new features. Or rather, big new features. Additions like Sets were pushed back, the UI of the operating system is still hit and miss, even with the focus on Fluent Design.
Yes, these things take time to get right, but the slowness of the process is what is unsettling.
Some may say that the recently released 19H1 did not bring anything major to the table. And they may be right. And with the way things are going with the 19H2 release, this one also looks to be another minor update that is primarily focused on bug fixes, touchups and refinements — a glorified cumulative update that brings along the new Edge browser and some Cortana app updates here and there.
Perhaps a little shakeup is needed?
Perhaps even how Windows 10 feature updates themselves are developed and delivered?
Sign of things to come?
Even if Microsoft tries to move to a yearly release cycle for Windows 10 updates — which many voices have been clamoring for — it is not exactly as easy as turning on a switch. That is because the 19H2 release is what the business userbase is looking forward to.
Redmond recently announced a change in support lifecycle for its OS. The release in the second half of the year essentially being the LTS branch, the one that will be supported for 30 months.
Then there is also the small matter of a new evolution of Windows, that we know as Polaris and Windows Core OS. This is basically the company developing clever modes for the operating system for different hardware types and form factors. Microsoft touched on this change in strategy recently, which is sure to be consuming up resources with the Windows development team.
But like all things in life, a little clarity goes a long way.