Microsoft is just six weeks away from releasing the next major upgrade of Windows 10, but according to past practice, will likely lock down the code in less than half that time.
The release date for what is being called "Windows 10 Anniversary Edition" has not been confirmed by the company, although the name itself hints at July 29, a match for last year's debut launch.
But other signals, and Microsoft's moves prior to the past two releases -- the original in July 2015 and the first major upgrade issued in November -- give users a good idea of when to expect the Anniversary Edition to arrive.
It will be in July, that's certain. As of build 14361 of the Windows 10 Insider program -- which landed on June 8 -- the operating system began self-identifying as version "1607" using Microsoft's year/month naming convention. (So did builds 14366, issued June 14, and 14367, which was released yesterday.)
Code lock-down will happen after July 12
Unless Microsoft changes its habits, the Anniversary Edition will be locked down -- where no significant changes are allowed, only last-minute bug fixes -- after the July slate of security updates are released. Patch Tuesday, as it's called, falls on July 12.
Version 1511, the first upgrade since the original launch, was released on Nov. 12, two days after that month's Patch Tuesday.
More tellingly, version 1507 was locked down on July 15, 2015, one day after that month's security updates, when Microsoft released build 10240 to Insiders. Two weeks later, the same build reached users as the original edition.
Microsoft may also signal that code lock-down is imminent by halting delivery of builds to the Insider program. Last year, the company did that on July 13, just two days before naming 10240 as the release candidate.
"We're suspending the availability of Windows 10 builds briefly while we prepare for [using the official roll-out process], and the next build that we flight to you will be delivered using the production channels," Gabriel Aul, engineering general manager for Microsoft's OS group, said at the time.
Watch for simultaneous fast and slow ring releases
In July and November, Microsoft only shipped the final code after it had issued the same build to Insiders on both the Fast and Slow release tracks, or "rings," either on the same day or within days of each other.
Prior to version 1507's launch, Microsoft simultaneously delivered build 10240, which was the final, to the Insider Fast and Slow rings on July 15. In November, Microsoft released the final of version 1511 -- designated as build 10586 -- to Insiders using the Fast ring on the 5th of the month, then to customers on the Slow track on the 9th. (Version 1511 was released on Nov. 12.)