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Oct 30 2015

Windows 10: “Non-Patch Update” Looms Ahead [Update]

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Microsoft is about to release the first in a long list of so-called functional upgrades to its latest desktop OS. According to WinBeta.org, the package will be delivered on Monday, November 2, 2015 – initially to users of the home or consumer versions.

As has been pointed out before, the switch to Windows 10 brought about a fundamental change in the underlying business model. Starting with this version, Microsoft has begun to terminate the tradition of selling packaged products and started to deliver the OS on an "as-a-service" basis. Consequently, the company has also decided to stop the release of Service Packs – software collections that combined security fixes and other improvements from several months into one neat bundle for users who couldn't be bothered with the monthly patch day. As of August 2015, the latter remains in place, but is now reserved for protective measures. The 'housekeeping' work on the other hand has been assigned to the functional upgrades, which Microsoft will issue at its own discretion – whether at regular intervals or not remains to be seen.

Another advantage of non-patch updates, at least from a vendor perspective, is that they allow Microsoft to enhance the basic code and add new functionalities or eliminate inconsistencies that hamper performance of the OS or single apps. While most users will likely welcome the improvements, some may find it problematic that they have little if any influence over what the upcoming non-patch update – dubbed Windows 10 Fall Update or Windows 10 November 2015does or when. For customers who installed the Home Edition, it is simply mandatory, whereas users of the Pro and Enterprise Editions get more leeway to postpone the update altogether for a limited time period. So far, it also seems unclear whether Redmond plans to roll out the 'new version' as a cumulative update, as Paul Thurrott suggests in his blog, or as a full build installation relying on Windows PE, an idea favored by German IT news service heise online.

Regarding the planned enhancements themselves, most sources agree they will be in line with the ones found in Windows 10 Build 10565, the preview delivered to participants of the Windows Insider program some two weeks ago. According to an entry on the Windows Experience Blog, the most noticeable changes include:

  • Integration of Skype messaging, phone and video calls at the OS level
  • Simplified printer management – Windows 10 automatically chooses the last used printer as the default device in order to "ensure the best printer is preselected in inbox print dialogs." To undo the change, users will have to go through Settings. Also, it's no longer possible to set a default printer by network location.
  • Simplified activation of qualifying devices using product/license keys from prior installations of Windows 7/8/8.1 (activated PCs remain activated)
  • Improved context menus in the Start Menu, including resizing options for tiles
  • Privacy enhancements – more granular options to manage/control app access to mail and phone contact lists
  • Tab previews and new syncing features for favorites and reading lists in the Windows Edge browser
  • An improved Media Creation Tool

Other changes, such as new icons and a more vibrant color scheme, are supposed to affect the Windows 10 Look & Feel rather than functionalities or features. Also, a number of planned improvements – such as support for the WebM and VP9 video formats and extensions in Windows Edge – have been postponed. They are now likely to be included in the next non-patch update, dubbed "Redstone," which is due in Q3 or 4/2016.

[Update 11-02-15:] In the meantime, the release date for the Windows 10 Fall Update has been postponed to November 10, which would suggest it might take the form of a cumulative patch rather than a full-build installation.

 
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