Windows 10 1903 arrives after stretch of extra testing

In the wake of last fall's Windows 10 rollout debacle, Microsoft put the follow-up version through additional testing. For enterprises, Windows 10 1903 is now ready for 'targeted deployment.'

Open windows with billowy curtains

Microsoft today launched Windows 10 May 2019 Update, aka 1903, after running the feature upgrade through additional testing with Insider volunteers, hardware manufacturers and third-party software developers.

"The May 2019 Update is available for customers who would like to install the latest release," John Cable, director of program management in the Windows delivery and servicing team, announced in a post to a company blog.

Under normal circumstances, 1903 — the four-digit label in Microsoft's yymm format — would have gone public six or more weeks ago. But in early April, Microsoft said it would send the feature upgrade — the first of two presumably slated for the year — into more testing. The decision was an obvious reaction to the debacle of Windows 10 1809, which in October 2018 launched with a known-yet-still-overlooked bug that destroyed user data. Microsoft pulled 1809 and while the upgrade eventually debuted, albeit months late, in March the company gave up on getting the new version to users.

Microsoft did not want a repeat performance of 1809, or to be viewed as pooh-poohing testing with 1903.

The delayed debut meant that the 18-month support allowance will not expire until Dec. 8, 2020, about two months later than if 1903 had followed the usual schedule.

Enterprises: Get ready, get set, don't go!

With the full 18 months stretched out in front of it, Windows 10 1903 is ready, argued Cable, for "targeted deployments" by business customers. "IT administrators should begin targeted deployments to validate that the apps, devices and infrastructure used by their organizations work as expected with the new release and features," Cable wrote in a section titled "Semi-Annual Channel release for commercial customers."

Cable's use of "targeted" to describe 1903 at its release is pivotal to enterprises, as it designated the upgrade as fit for testing and piloting but not widespread deployment. Later this summer, probably in two to four months, Microsoft will put out the word that Windows 10 1903 is "business ready" or something to that effect (if not in those words).

After several name changes of Windows 10's release channels, Microsoft recently trashed "Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)" (SAC-T) as the label for the opening months of each feature refresh. IT administrators and corporate Windows 10 users, who marked the shift from SAC-T to the shorter "Semi-Annual Channel" (SAC) as Microsoft's stamp that the upgrade had been thoroughly tested, rebelled; they worried SAC-T's demise meant the same for Redmond's guidance.

In late March, John Wilcox, a Windows-as-a-Service (WaaS) evangelist, told commercial customers to rest easy. "We will continue to communicate for future releases the transition from targeted to broad deployment status," Wilcox wrote.

How Microsoft will communicate the transition is unclear. Most likely? A revamped Windows 10 release informational webpage, which the firm dubbed "Windows release health dashboard." The one-stop site will list all update holds, known issues and the status of ongoing fixes. It will also show each version's current status. Currently, the page for Windows 10 1809 reads, "Windows 10, version 1809 is designated for broad deployment and available for any user who manually selects 'Check for updates' via Windows Update."

screen shot 2019 05 21 at 4.42.41 pm Microsoft

The new 'dashboard' Microsoft unveiled may be the place where the company tells commercial customers that a feature upgrade has been tested enough to trust deploying in large numbers, as here for Windows 10 1809. Microsoft gave that troubled upgrade the green light in late March.

Something similar appearing on the page dedicated to Windows 10 1903 may be all Microsoft does to tell enterprises that the upgrade is stable enough for them.

Where it's at

For commercial customers, Windows 10 1903 can be obtained via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Windows Update for Business (WUfB), and the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) using System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or another patch management platform.

Others, including Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro users, get 1903 by manually checking for updates. To do that, users should type "Settings" in the operating system's search bar, open that app, first choose "Update & Security" and then "Windows Update." Select "Check for updates."

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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