- Microsoft is shifting to an annual release cycle for Windows 10, which will be supported through 2025.
- The Windows 11 release process is moving more swiftly than the company had expected, and Microsoft is now making it available to more devices.
- Windows remains critical to Microsoft's business, contributing about 13% of revenue.
Microsoft made a subtle but significant shift in its Windows business on Tuesday that's meant to minimize the frustration that customers experience with updates.
After last month's release of Windows 11, Microsoft's newest operating system, the company said it will release just one annual update to its predecessor, Windows 10, instead of forcing consumers to update twice a year as has been the practice until now. Windows 11 is on a similar annual schedule.
Windows remains critical to Microsoft's business, contributing about 13% of revenue. In 2020, Windows had almost 83% market share by unit shipments, while Google Chrome OS had 10% and Apple's Mac OS had 7%, according to research firm Gartner.
By halving the number of updates, Microsoft is falling in line with what's become the industry standard. Apple issues a new version of MacOS once a year, and Apple's iOS received just one annual update, as does Google's Android operating system. However, Google says it issues a full update to Chrome OS roughly every four weeks.
Microsoft released Windows 10 in 2015 and had been updating it twice a year, prompting complaints from some customers who don't like the additional configuration work. In 2019, Microsoft started rolling out one larger update a year with new features and a smaller one focused on performance and reliability.
With Windows 11, Microsoft scrapped the twice-per-year approach altogether, citing customer input. The company will continue to support Windows 10 until October 2025, for those not ready to upgrade.
On Tuesday, Microsoft started to release the Windows 10 November 2021 Update, also known as Windows 10, version 21H2.
"We continue to listen to customer feedback to adapt Windows to meet your needs as part of our ongoing support for Windows 10, and have scoped the November 2021 Update to focus on productivity, management, and security," John Cable, vice president of program management for Windows servicing and delivery, wrote in a blog post.
The update includes stronger security to prevent attacks while using Wi-Fi networks. The upgraded Universal Print feature in Windows 10 Enterprise will be able to handle print jobs of up to one gigabyte. And customers will now be able to use the Azure Virtual Desktop service to provision apps to cloud-based Windows 10.
Users can check if the update is available by opening the settings app, navigating to Update & Security, choosing Windows Update and hitting the Check for updates button. A Download and install button will appear if the PC is ready for the update.
The Windows 11 release is also moving more quickly than Microsoft had expected. Cable added in the post that the company is "now making the Windows 11 upgrade more broadly available to eligible Windows 10 devices."