Release will add support for new form factors, come in two stages, and may be tied to Windows Server

Neowin's Brad Sams scored a nice scoop yesterday when he reported a hot leak detailing Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) successor to the soon-to-be-released Windows 10.  His leak revealed that the future build is in development under the codename "Redstone", a name derived from an item in Minecraft, a hit game by Sweden's Mojang AB.  The naming isn't entirely random -- Microsoft bought Mojang for last year for $2.5B USD and Windows codenames have often been color-based (e.g. "Windows Blue", the codename which Windows 8.1 was developed under).

I. It's For Real and It's Expected to Support Wearables

Reports from later yesterday offered up hints at what Windows Redstone may bring, how it will be released, and whether the codename is authentic.

Speaking first to the authenticity of the leaked name, it appears it is a real deal.  And it does appear to be named after the Minecraft item -- not the Redstone missile, comic book supervillain, or various cities name which also share the name.  ZDNet Windows insider Mary Jo Foley reports:

Brad Sams at Neowin unearthed the existence of the Redstone codename on April 7, calling it the "next Windows update coming in 2016." According to my sources, he's right... Microsoft's current plan calls for a similar summer/fall release schedule for Windows next year. "Redstone" is the codename for those releases due in 2016. Redstone will not be "Windows 11" or "Windows 12." It will still likely be "Windows 10," I am hearing.

According to a followup report by Sams, Redstone will be delivered in two passes:

Redstone will come in two waves, the first wave is targeted to arrive in June of 2016 and the second wave is scheduled for October of the same year... The features in Redstone are still unknown as they relate to the upcoming release of Windows 10; features that get cut from the RTM will be pushed to the Redstone release.

According to the report, Microsoft will retain its Insider Preview testing base in the aftermath of Windows 10's release, rather than disbanding it as was done with Windows 7 and 8.  With this semi-permanent collection of consumer beta testers, it will test the Redstone builds for bugs before fully rolling them out next year.

Windows Insider

The Sams update was relatively vague on what this pair of large updates would bring, in the features department.  Foley adds a bit of a lead, stating that her sources are indicating that Redstone wil add "support for new classes of devices that aren't already part of Windows 10."

Given that Windows 10 already supports tablets, laptops, hybrids, desktop PCs, microcontroller boards, head mounted display (HMD) PCs, large flatscreen PCs, phablets, and smatphones, that really only leaves appliances and wearables (e.g. smartwatches) as potential consumer-facing targets for Redstone.

Windows 10 wearables
Redstone will reportedly bring wearables support to Windows 10.
[Image Source: SlashGear/DailyTech/Jason Mick]

According to Foley Redstone is part of Microsoft's new consumer-facing operating system upgrade strategy.  Going ahead, she states, consumer OSes will receive monthly updates over Windows Update adding improvements to core apps, security fixes, and sometimes new features.  Occasionally a bigger update -- similar to Microsoft's Service Packs historically -- will journey down the pipe bringing more substantial changes that are too bulky to roll into a standard monthly update.  Redstone falls under this category.

But she says that moving ahead, after Windows 10, there will be no more individually released new Windows versions in the near future.  Rather PCs will come with the latest build of Windows 10 and be progressively updated over their lifespan getting Microsoft's latest and greatest OS, core apps, services, and security features.

In some ways this is similar to Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) approach of more iterative OS releases.  But it goes well beyond that.  Arugably it falls most closely in line with Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android OS upgrade strategy. But unlike Android, which relies on carriers and OEMs to roll out OS updates, Microsoft will be operating similar to how Apple does with iOS, bringing updates directly to the users.  Its monthly OS delta packages will be delivered via Windows Update to every Windows 10 device, ensuring every customer's Windows OS is up to date within a week or two of the mass release.

II. The Windows Server Connection

Aside from the Redstone's supposed place in Microsoft's new update paradigm, Paul Thurrott, proprietor of the well-know WindowsITPro and Supersite for Windows webpages was silent on the new release, but his WindowsITPro columnist Rod Trent did offer another interesting piece of insight.  He pointed out that Redstone's timing lines up with the release of the next version of Windows Server.  He notes that Windows Server has seen one Technical Preview pushed out to enterprise partners, but it is still a ways away.
Windows Server
He writes:

The Windows 10 client is being built around Microsoft's currently existing server and Cloud offerings. So, it makes sense that a big update will be required to give Windows 10 the ability to utilize any new features provided in a fresh server version. The Redstone update will probably include new technologies, but I can almost bet the bulk of the update will be provided to match newly enhanced server features.

Windows Redstone

So what do we (likely) know about Windows Redstone?
  • It's (probably) for real.
  • It's named after a Minecraft item.
  • It will be delivered via Windows Update.
  • It will come in two parts, which will be released in mid and late 2016.
  • It will bring new features.
  • It will possibly merge in features from the next version of Windows Server and Microsoft Azure.
  • It will likely support wearables and possibly smart appliances.
  • It will be similar to a Service Pack.
I'll let you know as more details of this upcoming Windows release draws closer.

Sources: ZDNet, Neowin, WindowsITPro

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