Microsoft shoves some Windows 10 testers into next year with early look at 2020 feature upgrade

The company pointed to a 'longer lead time' for some of the features in the far-off upgrade, which isn't expected to arrive until the spring of 2020.

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Microsoft on Friday took the unprecedented step of skipping one of its Windows 10 feature upgrades when it began distributing a preview of the first 2020 update to the most daring testing volunteers.

Usually, as one feature upgrade nears release, Microsoft starts giving some Windows Insider participants - those who opted for the "Skip Ahead" channel - a look at the following feature upgrade. Currently, Microsoft is getting close to wrapping up 2019's first upgrade, which will almost certainly be labeled "Windows 10 April 2019 Update" and carry the numeric tag of 1903. In its now-standard practice, it would soon begin giving Skip Ahead testers the code for this fall's upgrade, aka 1909 and likely named "Windows 10 October 2019 Update."

That's not what Microsoft did this time.

"Today we are releasing a new build to Insiders who have opted into Skip Ahead," wrote Dona Sarkar and Brandon LeBlanc, members of the Insider team, in a post to a company blog. "These builds are from the 20H1 development branch. Some things we are working on in 20H1 require a longer lead time."

20H1, which stands for 2020's spring feature upgrade - 2003 in Microsoft's own yymm format - would not typically see light until August or September of this year, as 1909 nears completion.

The "longer lead time" explanation from Microsoft was vague by virtue of the fact that the company has not named any new features or functionality expected to debut in the 2003 upgrade, nor has it yet included any in the Spring Ahead build. The phrase implied that elements were more complicated than usual, more important or both. One possible culprit: Sets, an ambitious user interface (UI) project that the company pulled from testing in mid-2018 but promised would eventually return to Insider betas.

It was unclear whether the jump-ahead would become a fixture of Insider to lengthen the time changes would be tested or if this is a one-off.

Sarkar and LeBlanc added that later this spring, Insider participants - presumably those who have opted for the Fast release ring and not volunteered for Skip Ahead - would receive updates previewing the 1909 feature upgrade. Those in the Skip Ahead group will likely continue receiving 2003 rather than be switched to 1909 - otherwise, what would be the point of jumping into 2020 at all?

Odd, too, is the use of a spring feature upgrade for such a move, as Microsoft recently demoted the first update of each year to second-fiddle status by retaining 18 months for their support lifecycles while extending support for each fall's upgrade to 30 months for customers running Windows 10 Enterprise. When Microsoft altered support that way last September, some industry experts expected that most businesses would forgo the spring upgrades entirely because of their shorter support.

Unless Microsoft modifies 1903's release schedule because of the debacle that resulted in a months'-long delay to its 1809 predecessor, the April 2019 Update should start reaching users' PCs in mid-April, or in about two months.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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