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Current Branch or Extended Beta?

Three Windows 10 release branches unfolded since the OS made its debut in July, 2015. Recent events and issues have me pondering this proposition: “Current Branch or Extended Beta?” Let me explain, first with some history, then with some recent observations.

First the history part. At present, there are three primary branches in the “servicing options” tree:

  • the most current branch, aka Current Branch (CB) now on version 1607
  • the Current Branch for Business (CBB) now on version 1511 (November 2015)
  • the Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB), still on version 1507 (RTM)

End-users/consumers follow the CB, where they suffer the slings and arrows of current/bleeding-edge release issues. Business users follow the CBB, and are somewhat insulated from those projectile weapons. The LTSB aims at situations where stability is the end-all and be-all. This means kiosks, factory floor systems, nuclear power plants, and the like. In short, LTSB is for places where “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rules supreme. It’s also where a corollary has emerged “If it ain’t broke, don’t update it, either.”

Whence That Proposition: Current Branch or Extended Beta?

Lately in the wake of the Anniversary Update on August 2, 2016, I’ve observed lots of CB users complaining about Windows 10 1607 and its follow on cumulative updates (9 of them, starting on August 2). I’ve also spent two-plus hours every day for the past 5 weeks helping out on line at TenForums.com. There, I’ve seen numerous users wax wroth and eloquent on these and other issues:

  • Difficulties installing AU and subsequent Cumulative Updates
  • Related issues with Windows Update problems and failures
  • Profound and vexing issues with Windows 10 freezing up and becoming nonresponsive
  • Booting to a black screen instead of a desktop
  • Serious driver issues with audio, printing, and video

I’ve also seen personal reports from dozens upon dozens of TenForums members and visitors claiming they they’re rolling back. That is, they’re reverting to Windows 7 (mostly), Windows 8 or 8.1 (only a few), or earlier versions of Windows 10 (the remainder). They’re doing do because problems that prove too intractable or time-consuming to fix on the Current Branch simply don’t exist on earlier versions.

Hence the Proposition…

It all has me wondering if MS might not be assuming that because such business as has upgraded to Windows 10 is hanging back on the CBB, it’s OK to use the end-users and consumers on the Current Branch as guinea pigs. That is why I think “Current Branch or Extended Beta” could explain a lot of what I’ve been seeing and hearing recently. Perhaps this is too cynical, and MS really seeks a stable leading edge OS environment. But it’s indisputable that they have averaged three cumulative updates per month since August. It’s also indisputable that some of these updates have included hurry-up fixes to issues introduced by their predecessors.

My fervent resulting wish is for MS to slow down the pace of releases, and spend more time compatibility testing them. We’ve got a new Preview level that anticipates the Current Branch (I’m running it on my Surface Pro 3, in fact). Why not spend more time unkinking updates there before dropping releases into the Current Branch itself? This lowers the troubleshooting burden for non-professionals in the end-user and consumer communities. It might also repair some of the damage to Win10’s reputation that Microsoft has foisted it upon itself recently. Hello? I only hope somebody at MS is listening…