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Windows 10 Will Bring New Features Every 4 Months

Organizations will face a continuous update process with Windows 10 and IT pros should start setting up test groups now that that new operating system has been released.

At least that's the view of a recent presentation by Stephen Kleynhans, vice president for the Mobile and Client Computing Group at Gartner Inc. He explained in a Webinar that IT pros should test Windows 10 with internal groups that can tolerate disruptions, which includes the IT department as well as other users in the organization. He recommended adopting a testing approach similar to Microsoft's Windows Insider Program, which deploys feature updates to fast-ring testers before more general Windows 10 rollouts.

Gartner is recommending that organizations move away from the old IT lab-testing approach for piloting new releases with Windows 10. Instead, organizations should set up pilots of Window 10 releases with sets of end users. To do that, it's necessary to identify which users require stability and which users can tolerate change. Organizations should identify which apps are the most crucial to test, too.

Kleynhans wasn't advocating a rush to Windows 10. IT pros should just "kick the tires" for now. They should sketch out different types of Windows 10 deployments within groups in their organizations over the next 4.5 years with the idea that Windows 7 will eventually reach its product lifecycle end in January 2020. Windows 10 machines can be brought online when there's a need to replace Windows 7 PCs. The main goal now is to implement internal processes for maintaining the update process with Windows 10.

Microsoft has moved to a continuous update model with Windows 10. Kleynhans explained that this continuous update model already exists with Microsoft's patch Tuesday security update process, but Microsoft intends to deliver feature updates with Windows in much the same way. The feature updates with Windows 10 will be separate from the security updates, he added, and will occur roughly every four months.

Service Branch Models
Microsoft will deliver Windows 10 updates according to three service-branch models, including current branch (for consumers), current branch for business (CBB) and long-term servicing branch (for embedded systems). Current branch users will be compelled to take updates. Most organizations likely will opt for the CBB model, Kleynhans indicated.

There will be a four-month delay from the current branch release to the CBB release, and then those CBB users can delay Windows 10 feature updates from taking effect for another eight months. All told, organizations adopting the CBB approach will be able to delay Windows 10 updates from taking effect for one year from the current branch launch.

Only long-term servicing branch users can avoid Windows 10 feature updates. Kleynhans described organizations going the long-term servicing branch route as those with strict compliance issues to address.

Organizations should stagger the delivery of Windows 10 updates across their testing groups with each release, according to Kleynhans. Microsoft's Windows Update for Business tool will enable this approach, he added.

Windows 10 won't have service packs, but it will have a first update. The first significant Windows 10 update is expected in early-to-mid fourth quarter this year, Kleynhans said. It will have features that didn't make the first cut. Another update is expected in the third quarter of next year, he added.

Hardware Considerations
The first consumer machines with hardware designed for Windows 10 are expected to start shipping this month, but equipment with hardware supporting some features, such as the Windows Hello biometric security feature or the Cortana personal assistant (which uses specific microphone hardware), likely won't ship until the September timeframe, Kleynhans said. Windows Hello requires special cameras that can detect infrared light. It also works with finger print scanners, but iris scanning support is still to come.

Windows 10 enterprise machines likely will ship later than the first consumer PCs. It could happen in the November-December timeframe this year, or, more likely, in January or February of 2016, Kleynhans said.

The upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 won't be as bad as the upgrade from Windows XP to Window 7. Organizations spent about 18 months getting to Windows 7, but it will take about half that time to move to Windows 10, according to Kleynhans. He added that Microsoft's preferred route of in-place upgrades from Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 "looks very promising." There's no need to wipe and upgrade every machine. He added that Microsoft has new "provisioning packages" with Windows 10 that let IT pros use the machine's OEM image for customization instead of having to create their own imaging media.

In essence, Windows 10 is "the final version of Windows as we know it," Kleynhans said. It's the "name of the product" and not the version number, and it should last a decade.

In addition to setting up Windows 10 pilots and implementing a policy for maintaining the update process, IT pros should spend the next 90 days learning about Windows 10's functionality and how it may fit within the organization. IT pros should strive to get off Internet Explorer 8 and start using Internet Explorer 11 by January 2016 to meet Microsoft' support milestone. While Microsoft is moving forward with its Edge modern browser, organizations should adopt a multibrowser support approach to avoid vendor lock in, Kleynhans said. Gartner also previously noted that the Edge browser won't be an option for organization adopting Windows 10's long-term servicing branch model.

Kleynhans' full talk, "What You Need to Know About Windows 10," is worth a listen and is available on demand here. It's free to access, although a Gartner sign-up is required.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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