Microsoft Previews New In-Between Features for Windows 11 Version 22H2

Microsoft on Tuesday announced that new Windows 11 version 22H2 features are getting released at the preview stage via an "optional non-security preview release."

The new features are for end users. They include:

  • Tabs in File Explorer, which lets users organize their files into folders, which then appear at the top of File Explorer as named tabs.
  • A new Favorites section for pinning the most used files.
  • A Suggested Actions feature, which might suggest scheduling an appointment or adding a calendar item based on a user's interactions.
  • A Taskbar Overflow feature for accessing multiple pinned items more easily, plus the ability to get to Task Manager by right-clicking on the Taskbar.
  • Easier sharing of files with "discoverable devices nearby" when using File Explorer, Photos and the Snipping Tool.
  • A Photos app gallery that displays images stored on a phone (including iPhones) or a camera, plus images from OneDrive storage.
  • Access to Android apps in the Amazon Appstore, plus an ESPN app for sports.

The new features are arriving via the Windows Update servicing mechanism, typically used for the delivery of monthly quality and security patches. They'll also arrive as updates from the Microsoft Store.

While the new features are optional previews this month, next month they will just simply be delivered to Windows 11 version 22H2 users, and mostly to consumer users. They'll just appear.

New In-Between Feature Releases
This release kicks off a new approach, where Microsoft will release new Windows 11 client features when it deems them ready, and not just once per year with "feature update" operating system releases.

A feature update is a whole new operating system, which incidentally includes new features. Microsoft's new approach with Windows 11 version 22H2 is to release new features in-between its once-per year OS feature update releases.

Such details aren't well explained, but here is Microsoft's indication to that effect in the announcement, where it also explained that the commercial (nonpreview) release of the features will happen next month:

The new features will be made broadly available to all editions of Windows 11, version 22H2 in the November 2022 security update release. Going forward we will continue to announce, document and deliver new features and experiences when they are ready (learn more).

The "learn more" text above links to a Microsoft support document that fleshes out this concept.

Off by Default for Most Orgs
Not everyone will get these new features. Consumer users of Windows 11 Home editions likely can't block them, but arrival will be turned off by default for most organizations.

Organizations using the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 11 will have delivery turned off by default. It's also turned off by default for organizations using domain-joined Windows 11 Pro editions.

After November, these organizations will get policy options to turn the Windows 11 in-between features on, which "will be done as a set, and not for individual features or individual releases," the support document explained.

Veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley interpreted the in-between features as just late-coming promised Windows 11 version 22H2 features, and stated that they will not be turned off by default for organizations. "The set of features going out this week and on Nov. 8 will NOT be off by default," Foley wrote in this ZDNet article. While Foley is typically correct, such a notion contradicts what Microsoft's support article currently states, and it isn't mentioned at all in Microsoft's public announcement.

Supposedly, this Windows 11 version 22H2 in-between feature update is called a "Moments" release by Microsoft internally, although Microsoft's announcement and its support document did not use that term.

The "Moments" term was mentioned by writer Zac Bowden in this July 14 Windows Central article. It was attributed to unnamed "sources." Moments releases may arrive as much as four times per year, Bowden's article indicated.

Microsoft hasn't explained the Moments-release concept. Panos Panay, Microsoft's chief product officer, mentioned the faster feature releases back in February, and repeated that notion in September.

Here's Panay's February description:

Over time, you'll see us release new features into Windows 11 for end users more frequently in addition to our annual update. We will leverage the variety of update mechanisms we have in place including servicing and Microsoft Store updates. Our goal is to deliver continuous innovation, providing you with the best experiences year-round.

Microsoft claims that its in-between feature releases are vetted and delivered via a "phased and measured approach" using the "Controlled Feature Rollout (CFR) technology" that's also used with the Microsoft Edge browser and Windows Insider Program releases.

These in-between feature releases aren't described as coming to Windows 10 devices. It's apparently just a Windows 11 phenomenon.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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