Windows 10 Creators Update Current Branch Arriving April 11
Microsoft plans to start delivering its new Windows 10 "creators update" globally, starting on April 11, according to an announcement.
The release, to be known as version 1703, will be a "current branch" release, which Microsoft views as a test release for organizations. The "current branch for business" version -- which is the release that Microsoft expects organizations to deploy -- is expected to arrive on Aug. 8, 2017, according to a Twitter post by Rob Helm, managing vice president at the Directions on Microsoft independent consultancy.
Meanwhile, organizations still running Windows 10 version 1507 are essentially on a dead branch. They'll need to update their clients in order to continue to get security updates. However, Microsoft previously indicated that version 1507 will fall out of support in May, rather than the expected March date.
IT pros will face the prospect of seeing hefty file downloads with the arrival of the Windows 10 creators update. Some coming technologies from Microsoft are expected to reduce the bandwidth hits of Windows 10 updates for organizations, but they'll arrive after the creators update, Microsoft previously suggested.
Consumer users of Windows 10 will get the creators update directly since Microsoft deems them to be test subjects under its product-use terms. This time around, Microsoft will permit Windows 10 Home edition users to delay a system reboot into the creators update for up to three days with a new Snooze option. They'll also be able to specify their "Active Hours" for up to 18 hours (up from 12 hours) to ensure that updates don't occur while they are working.
Microsoft typically releases two major releases of Windows 10 per year, following a spring-and-summer release concept, although that rough schedule has slipped in the past. The new Windows 10 creators update, codenamed "Redstone 2," will be the first major client OS update this year. It follows the so-called "anniversary update" ("Redstone 1") of Windows 10 version 1607, which was released as a current branch in August and then subsequently released in November as current branch for business. These two branch releases are basically the same thing, except that software flaws get fixed in the interim.
A supposed "Redstone 3" release could be the next major update of Windows 10, perhaps arriving late this year, but it's just a rumor.
Creators Update Features
The Windows 10 creators update is being associated with art-like features added to the OS. It has a lot of other improvements, too. Possibly, Microsoft may move away from using marketing names with future Windows 10 releases -- at least that idea was floated in November by Michael Niehaus, director of product marketing for Windows at Microsoft.
Along those lines, Microsoft's announcement is highlighting a Paint 3D application in the creators update. Paint 3D comes with access to a library of prebuilt objects at the Remix 3D Web site that can be grabbed to build three-dimensional art.
Microsoft is also touting coming mixed-reality experiences with the creators update. Developers are getting mixed-reality development kits this month for building Windows 10 apps. Mixed-reality headsets from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo are coming sometime this year, according to Microsoft. The Xbox One gaming console will start getting mixed-reality capabilities sometime in 2018. The creators update also will have support for Beam, a game broadcasting and chat service.
The Windows Hello biometric identity verification feature in the creators update is getting a "Remote Lock" security feature. It will lock a PC or tablet if a user's mobile device (smartphone, fitness band, etc.) is found to be out of range of the PC or tablet. In February, Microsoft had suggested that Windows Hello operations could be tied to an organization's datacenters, rather than Microsoft's infrastructure. Microsoft had also promised back then that its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection service, which performs post-breach security analyses, would get the ability to use "customized detection rules" with the creators update.
The creators update will have a new Windows Defender Security Center dashboard-like screen. It's a redesigned screen for consumer users that shows the state of malware protection, device performance and firewall status. It also lets users get access to controls for browsers and applications, plus family controls. Possibly, Microsoft will institute Adobe Flash Player blocking with the creators update, as described late last year.
Microsoft also will deliver an update to the privacy choices it offers in the creators update. Users who specified their privacy preferences previously will have to do it again.
The Microsoft Edge browser is getting a tab management capability with the creators update. It's called the "tab preview bar." Users get thumbnail views of the Web pages that are running in tabs, and they can store groups of tabs. The Edge browser can serve as an e-book reader as well. In January, Microsoft highlighted a bunch of Edge security enhancements that will be coming with the creators update.
Microsoft added a "Night Light" feature in the creators update that can be used to reduce a screen's blue light output at specified times. Blue light is thought to keep the brain in a wakeful state, so users now have the ability to reduce it at night to perhaps get better sleep.
Microsoft also announced some news about its hardware products, as well as partner offerings that will run the Windows 10 creators update. Available in "coming months" will be the ASUS Zenbook Flip, Dell Canvas, HP Spectre x360 and others.
Microsoft's Surface Book laptop with Performance base product will be getting a market expansion. It will available for purchase on April 20 in "Austria, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom," per Microsoft's announcement.
The Surface Studio PC and the Surface Dial device will be available on April 20 in "Australia, Canada and New Zealand."
Microsoft's Surface Hub conferencing device will be getting the Windows 10 creators update. It will bring an improved start screen for easier sign-on access. The white-board app in the Surface Hub will get better integration with Skype for Business, Microsoft promised.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.