Microsoft To Issue 'Minor' Updates to Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 on August 12
Microsoft announced today that it will start to deliver new updates to Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 on Aug. 12.
The free updates, which include some minor feature changes on the client side and some bug fixes on the server side, will be available via Windows Update on the same day as Microsoft's "patch Tuesday" security release date for the month of August. That's not exactly a coincidence. Microsoft heavily implied in its announcement that it may regularly release operating system updates, including updates with OS feature changes, alongside its regular monthly security patch releases, going forward.
Minor OS Changes
For Windows 8.1, the August update will bring new settings for the touchpad. For instance, it will be possible to specify that the touchpad remains on when connecting a mouse to a machine. Users also will be able to enable "right clicks" on the touchpad or "double-tap and drag."
The update will improve the "keep me signed in" experience on Windows 8.1 when accessing Microsoft's SharePoint Online service. In addition, the update will add "Wi-Fi direct APIs" for developers building on Miracast technology. Miracast enables Windows 8.1 devices to project screen views to those TVs or projectors that support the technology.
For Windows Server 2012 R2, the August update will just provide bug fixes. The changes won't affect applications running on the server, according to Microsoft's Windows Server announcement.
"There are no changes to system APIs, your applications should 'just work' without the need for re-certification or re-validation," the Windows Server announcement claimed.
Microsoft regularly releases security fixes and nonsecurity fixes on every second Tuesday of the month as part of its regular patch release cycle. However, update releases that changed the features in its OSes were traditionally handled differently by Microsoft. For instance, the Windows 8.1 Update, released on April 8 (also a patch Tuesday date), required the installation of a "servicing-stack update" first and Microsoft had warned organizations that Windows 8.1 Update would "change your system's current behavior," implying that organizations should test before applying the update.
IT pros don't seem to be getting those caveats this time (a Microsoft spokesperson didn't provide a clarification when asked about testing). And organizations could be facing monthly updates to Microsoft's operating systems, in addition to dealing with security patch releases. Microsoft's announcement implied as much, calling the new release approach "Update Tuesday":
With the above in mind, rather than waiting for months and bundling together a bunch of improvements into a larger update as we did for the Windows 8.1 Update, customers can expect that we'll use our already existing monthly update process to deliver more frequent improvements along with the security updates normally provided as part of "Update Tuesday."
In addition to delivering the updates through Windows Update, they will be available via Microsoft Update and through Windows Server Updates Services. After Aug. 12, organizations can install the updates without any time pressures, the announcement implied.
No 'Update 2'
Microsoft's announcement debunked the rumor that this release would be called "Windows 8.1 Update 2." While that's useful to know, Microsoft's new update release approach still remains fairly obscure. Naming conventions for update releases aren't clear as well. Windows client and server releases have seemed unpredictable ever since Microsoft announced a faster release cycle last year. The company seems to have departed from its old "service pack" terminology, issuing updates instead (although possibly Microsoft will issue service packs, too). With the Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft imposed an install deadline, a seemingly new practice for the company.
No mention was made of an install deadline this time with the August updates to Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2. However, organizations without the Windows 8.1 Update installed won't get this August update.
"Customers must have Windows 8.1 Update installed to receive this and future updates," a Microsoft spokesperson clarified, via e-mail.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.