Mark up your calendars: there are only about five months left in the current Windows 10 feature update development cycle.
No more needing to say later this year or sometime this fall when we are discussing the release of the fourth major feature update for Windows 10.
That update, known by its code name of Redstone 3 right now, has already begun its development cycle and is now expected to be released in September 2017.
We now know this targeted release month based on news from Microsoft today.
In an announcement on the Windows for Business blog, we have learned that the Redmond company has decided to align the release and support cycles of Windows 10, , and System Center Configuration Manager. This means that each of those products will be released in the same month each year, March and September, plus each of them will receive 18 months of support following its feature update release.
While this announcement is directed towards business customers it does have a consumer impact. Consumers, especially enthusiasts and early adopters, will appreciate the steady pace of releases intermixed with the Windows 10 feature update development cycle that Windows Insiders take part in for each upgrade.
But one thing you will notice immediately is that the development cycle is going to get compressed with this new plan from Microsoft.
I'm speculating here, but maybe that is why Microsoft released the first Redstone 3 build in between the early release and official availability this month - to get a head start - with three PC builds already released to Insiders for testing.
Anyway, Microsoft started off with plans to release two feature updates every year for Windows 10 when it was initially released and this calendar year was going to be the first time it would happen since Windows 10 became publicly available. However, the three feature updates released so far have been spaced further apart compared to the new plan.
Take a look...
Windows 10 Version 1507 (Initial Release)
Release Date: 29 July 2015
Windows 10 Version 1511 (November Update)
Release Date: 12 November 2015
Time since previous feature update: 3 months and 14 days (106 days total)
Windows 10 Version 1607 (Anniversary Update)
Release Date: 02 August 2016
Time since previous feature update: 8 months and 21 days (264 days total)
Windows 10 Version 1703 (Creators Update)
Release Date: 11 April 2017
Time since previous feature update: 8 months and 9 days (252 days total)
As you can see, the Windows team had a solid 8 months plus for each of the last two feature update development cycles.
Under the new planned release targets of March and September there will be approximately six months between releases to work on the next feature updates development. This removes about 25% of the development cycle time compared to the last two update cycles. Of course, you have to also consider the September to March cycle including the December holidays which eats up a few weeks of that cycles available time due to vacations, etc.
So does this change anything in the long run? Maybe: It's possible the shorter time frame for working on each feature update means they will not be as dramatic/ambitious, i.e. not full of major updates, and therefore each update will become even more incremental compared to their predecessor.
While it is great to get new features in Windows 10 with big updates, maybe more focused development will mean more stability-related work with just a sprinkle of minor additions to the operating systems capabilities. We still see a wide variety of experiences in Windows 10 with each feature update. Stability efforts could go a long way towards improving the upgrades between feature updates.
In turn, that creates more confidence in the operating system itself and that confidence from consumers can then translate into business confidence with the upgrade cycles. By the time the end of Windows 7's 10 year life cycle support period arrives in January 2020, Microsoft will have nearly three years of working within this new twice a year release cadence and will have the system well established.
Who couldn't use some stability in their Windows 10 existence?