Windows Release Cycle Reportedly Shifting to Once Every 3 Years
Microsoft is planning to release major new Windows client operating system versions every three years, instead of once per year, according to a report.
This shift in Microsoft's Windows OS release plans was described by writer Zac Bowden in this July 14 Windows Central article, with Bowden attributing the information to unnamed "sources." The next Windows 11 release is "currently scheduled for 2024, three years after Windows 11 shipped in 2021," Bowden wrote.
That schedule shift, if true, means that Microsoft will skip a major Windows 11 release next year, per Bowden's account.
Bowden also indicated that Microsoft plans to introduce individual new OS features, which will arrive annually in the intervals between the major OS releases. These updates with new features are said to be called "Moments" internally by Microsoft, and they may arrive as much as four times per year.
The analogy for this Moments release approach is Microsoft's Weather app, which currently appears on the taskbars of Windows 10 and Windows 11 systems. The Weather app was just dropped into those systems by Microsoft.
Microsoft used to release major new Windows 10 client OSes twice per year. However, it switched to annual client OS releases (typically in the fall) with the advent of Windows 11, which was first released on Oct. 5, 2021. Microsoft later switched Windows 10 over to a once-per-year OS release cycle as well, which started with Windows 10 version 21H2 , which was released Nov. 16, 2021.
Microsoft's main argument for its faster Windows OS releases was keeping up with security, and that users wanted new features. However, the faster pace likely upped the burdens for IT pros responsible for maintaining computing environments in organizations.
IT pros facing the faster Windows release pace also were advised by Microsoft to divert their time and test the new OSes beforehand as part of the Windows Insider Program to avoid potential problems. Additionally, IT pros were supposed to triage new Windows OS releases in user testing "rings" (small groups of users) before broadly rolling out a new OS release.
If Microsoft does plan to switch major Windows OS releases to a once-every-three-years cycle, then Microsoft would seem to be going back to its older and more traditional release cycle. It was a time when "service packs" for Windows would get released after maybe two or three years, bringing new OS features, but there was more time for organizations to carry out testing.
The shift to Windows OS releases every three years, with so-called Moments feature updates also arriving in between, was also picked up by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley. Foley cited Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay as having previously indicated that Microsoft expects to roll out new Windows features whenever and however it wants.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.