According to a report from Windows Central, Microsoft intends to make yet another significant change to the way it updates Windows. Microsoft plans to return to a schedule where it releases a new major version of Windows roughly every three years, which would put a hypothetical “Windows 12” on track for release at some point in the fall of 2024, as compared to updating a single version of Windows for many years as it did with Windows 10.
This initially appears to be a significant return to the pre-Windows 10 status quo. Windows Vista was replaced by Windows 7 in 2009, Windows 8 in 2012, and Windows 10 in 2015. According to the source, however, Microsoft will keep improving the present version of Windows at a constant rate, with new feature drops (internally referred to as “Moments”) planned around once per quarter. With Windows 11, which has steadily improved throughout the year rather than saving all of its significant improvements for the next Windows 11 22H2 upgrade, they have already received a taste of that.
Microsoft announced that Windows 11 and Windows 10 would both receive significant “feature update releases” once a year in the second half of the year when Windows 11 was released in October of 2021. From Windows 10, which gets two of these upgrades annually, this was already a difference. However, according to Windows Central, Windows 11’s 2023 feature upgrade has already been “scrapped,” indicating that the large-scale yearly release strategy may be permanently abandoned.
Whatever the company has in mind, it is not yet prepared to make it known to the general public. A Microsoft representative who was contacted for comment informed us that the business “does not comment on rumours or speculation.”
Many important questions remain unresolved as a response. Will there still be a “23H2” release of Windows to define the update life cycle of Windows 11 if this change is coming? Is Windows 12 a free upgrade for current Windows users like Windows 10 and Windows 11, or will it cost money like earlier Windows versions? Which features, if any, will be kept around for several significant Windows releases? Which features are present in “Moments” and which are reserved for significant releases?
Returning to Windows releases with more distinct boundaries may have advantages; it will provide developers the chance to make more significant changes to the user interface or internal workings while also gaining from the increased user awareness and media attention that come with big updates. Additionally, it presents an opportunity to modify system requirements, ensuring that any system running Windows 12 has more capable hardware than one running Windows 11 (albeit the drawback for users would be a further tightening of Windows 11’s already strict requirements).
The current plan, on the other hand, sounds like the worst of both worlds to third-party developers and IT managers: a constantly evolving current version of Windows that is constantly being tweaked, plus a more fragmented install base with sizable user groups running one of three or four different Windows versions with different user interfaces and feature sets. IT administrators may develop poor habits and stick with “good” known-quantity versions of Windows (like XP or 7) rather than less-desirable versions (like 8 or Vista), skipping out on important new features and security updates in the process.
When the annual feature updates for both operating systems are issued later this year, Microsoft might provide additional information regarding its upgrade plans for Windows 10 or Windows 11 then. It has previously been fairly well publicised that Windows 11 22H2 has been developed in the open through the Windows Insider testing channels. About Windows 10 22H2, which may or may not really add any user-noticeable features to the now-last-gen OS, the firm has stated almost nothing.