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Windows Insiders: New Channels

In an announcement from Microsoft last week regarding the way they release Windows and the ending of the Windows Insider Rings.

Windows Insider was an open software testing program by Microsoft that allows users who own a valid license of Windows 10 to register for pre-release builds of the operating system previously only accessible to software developers. It was launched in October 2014 for users who wanted to be able to test and contribute feedback to improve the Windows 10 experience.

The original concept was based on deployment rings some internal to Microsoft others available to willing users to test / contribute early releases —   By September 2015, over 7 million people took part in the Windows Insider Program.

Ring2

They are transitioning from the existing frequency-based RING model to a channel model aligning to the Office release model.   Microsoft has stated that this change had made to focus on quality and not frequency.   

So no more Windows Insiders  —  It is now all about channels!  The new model is named Windows Insider Channels.

Table showing similarities between channels for Windows and Office Insider Programs.

For Windows Insiders, the move to channels will be easy. Microsoft will automatically move devices based on your current ring to the new channel that best corresponds with that experience as follows:

  • Dev Channel (formerly know as Fast-ring)
  • Beta Channel  (formerly know as Slow-ring)
  • Release Preview Channel (Release Preview ring)
Table for mapping the new Channels: Fast ring will become the Dev Channel, the Slow ring will become the Beta Channel, and the Release Preview ring will become the Release Preview Channel.

For production-based deployments, they are already in the channel model. There are currently two release channels for Windows 10:

  • Semi-Annual Channel receives feature updates twice per year.
  • Long Term Servicing Channel, which is designed to be used only for specialized devices (which typically don’t run Office) such as those that control medical equipment or ATM machines, receives new feature releases every two to three years.

Given the many challenges and issues Microsoft has had with their past testing of “beta” releases, it remains to be seen if this is any more than just a new re-branding will be effective effort.  We are all hopeful.