Microsoft Releases 'Commercial Previews' of Windows 11 and Windows 10 Version 21H2
Microsoft on Thursday announced that "commercial previews" of Windows 11 and Windows 10 version 21H2 are available for testing by organizations opting into the Windows Insider Program for Business.
Windows 11 will only be available if a device meets Microsoft's hardware requirements. Devices also need to have installed a Sept. 1 optional cumulative update, namely KB5005101.
Current Windows Insider Program for Business participants will get offered Windows 11 automatically as an optional update. They'll have an option to "Stay on Windows 10 for now." If they are staying, then they'll be offered an optional update to Windows 10 version 21H2.
Microsoft has used the oxymoronic "commercial preview" term before with its Windows operating system releases. It's not clear what it means. Both OSes are expected to get commercially released this year, with Windows 11 expected on Oct. 5.
However, with these commercial preview releases, Microsoft is promising to provide free support to "small to large enterprise customers" that may encounter problems.
Here's how that notion was put:
Along with commercial pre-release availability, we are also offering free support for commercial organizations running these builds. This means you can test these releases -- and your preferred deployment methods -- while remaining supported prior to general availability.
Normally, getting such support requires the purchase of a support plan from Microsoft or having Software Assurance coverage.
Getting the Bits
Organizations enrolled in the Windows Insider Program for Business can get the commercial preview bits for Windows 11 or Windows 10 version 21H2 from "all standard channels."
Those channels include:
- Windows Update
- Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)
- Azure Marketplace and
- The "Windows Insider Program ISO download page."
Microsoft Endpoint Manager and WSUS
Organizations using WSUS or Microsoft Endpoint Manager can directly access the commercial previews of Windows 11 and Windows 10 version 21H2. These OSes will appear under the "Windows Insider Pre-release" category, the announcement indicated.
Microsoft also announced earlier this week that it added new Endpoint analytics capabilities, some of which help with assessing Windows 11 device upgrades. Microsoft describes Endpoint analytics as being "part of the Microsoft Productivity Score" service. It's also described as a "cloud service of Microsoft Endpoint Manager."
The capability in Microsoft Endpoint Manager that helps assess Windows 11 device upgrade readiness is called "the Windows metric":
The Windows metric helps you measure the number of devices running older versions of Windows. With the September 2021 release of Endpoint Manager, you'll be able to see the readiness of all your managed devices for upgrading to Windows 11.
Microsoft Endpoint Manager users also will get "remediation steps to upgrade your Windows OS version," the announcement promised.
Windows 10 Version 21H2 Caveat
Upgrades to Windows 10 version 21H2 are made easy via so-called "enablement packages," where the new bits are already present on a device, but inactive. However, only devices running Windows 10 version 2004 or newer have these enablement packages in place.
If an organizations is upgrading to Windows 10 version 21H2 from a version of Windows 10 older than version 2004, then "a full OS swap" is required, the announcement indicated:
To access the Windows 10, version 21H2 preview build, devices running Windows 10, version 2004, version 20H2, or version 21H1 can leverage the enablement package path to update to version 21H2. Devices running versions prior to Windows 10, version 2004 will first need to do a full OS swap to receive Windows 10, version 21H2.
Microsoft thinks even Windows 7 apps will run on Windows 11 and Windows 10 version 21H2.
"If you experience a compatibility issue when deploying Windows 11 or Windows 10, version 21H2, you can utilize App Assure with Microsoft FastTrack to help remediate your application issues," the announcement indicated.
FastTrack is conducted by Microsoft or its partners and just offers application remediation advice. Organizations need to have 150 or more subscribers to be able to use the FastTrack service.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.