Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 with annual feature updates
Microsoft today released the November 2021 update for Windows 10, also known as Windows 10 21H2, to the public. The company is also clarifying its plans for the future of Windows 10 updates: Effective immediately, Microsoft will continue to provide Windows 10 feature updates once a year instead of twice a year as before. This is to synchronize the update schedule of Windows 10 with that of Windows 11, which will also receive important feature updates once a year.
Microsoft hasn’t set the number of annual updates for Windows 10, but the company will support “at least one version” of the operating system until update support ends in October 2025. Microsoft is promising 18 months of support for Windows 10 21H2, so assume that we’ll see at least 22H2 and 23H2 versions for Windows 10. For companies using Windows 10 Enterprise, version 21H2 is also a Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) update and will receive update support for five years instead of 18 months.
While further Windows 10 updates will be welcome news for anyone unwilling to upgrade to Windows 11 or whose hardware does not support the new operating system, it is not clear what “feature updates” will bring to a replaced operating system. Microsoft has backported some apps and APIs to older Windows versions in the past to increase adoption of new technologies and reduce developer workload. However, there are already some features that are currently exclusive to Windows 11 – including 64-bit x86 app emulation in the ARM version of Windows 10, the faster-to-update Microsoft Store version of the Windows subsystem for Linux , the Windows Subsystem for Android in its entirety, and most of the updated first-party apps – and we expect that list to grow rather than shrink.
The originally proposed “Windows-as-a-Service” model was intended to alleviate the fragmentation between different Windows versions and to make the backporting of features superfluous from the outset. It remains to be seen how Windows-as-a-Service works when Microsoft serves two slightly (but increasingly) different versions of Windows in parallel.