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Microsoft's attempt to remedy issues in the Windows 10 feature update process might be too little too late.
IT pros will have a new way to update desktops with the Windows 10 19H2 update, which will be available in September to devices running Windows 10 1903, according to a Microsoft blog post. The release will include a smaller set of performance improvements and will take less time to install due to a smaller file size. Microsoft is currently rolling a test build of 19H2 out to Windows Insiders in the Slow Ring.
"The release is doing a lot of talking without saying much at all," said Willem Bagchus, messaging and collaboration specialist at United Bank, based in Parkersburg, W.Va. "Microsoft will put less in the update, which will make it quicker to install. You're drinking a smaller glass of water, which takes less time."
Windows 10 update issues
Windows 10 updates have a history fraught with issues. Microsoft's decision to use a continuous update cycle with Windows 10 updates was met with frustration from both IT and end users.
"Windows 10 is an ever-changing landscape," said Chandon Pierre, an IT engineer at a financial services firm in New York. "A lot of [Windows 10 management] is just about keeping up with Microsoft's new policies and managing user expectations."
Keeping up with the pace of updates is a challenge, especially with a small IT team, said Oleg Kazak, end-user computing solutions engineering specialist at Western Union.
An IT admin can choose to wait 18 months and skip feature updates, but it denies the idea of the evergreen OS and introduces more problems, Kazak said.
"If you skip versions, [the] next updates will be huge and take longer to install, which will annoy users and can introduce too many drastic changes at a time," he said. "It didn't help that Windows 10 is not working correctly with WSUS [Windows Server Update Services], so I had to spend even more time trying to fix failed updates and figuring out workarounds."
Microsoft pushes Windows Update for Business as a way to manage updates, but the tool lacks the flexibility, control and visibility that WSUS and System Center Configuration Manager offer in the update management process, Kazak said.
"Windows Update for Business would be a more acceptable tool if big updates were to be released only once per year," he said. "Now, it is hard to create policies to only have one update per year because of the limits for how long you can defer an update."
Microsoft's proposed solution for that -- the introduction of smaller updates -- brings more confusion than clarity, Bagchus said.
Holger MuellerVP and principal analyst, Constellation Research
"It's just more of the same thing, only quicker," he said. "My frustrations with the Windows update was the crowbar 'you don't have any choice' part, not really the time it took."
Microsoft's announcement of the Windows 10 19H2 update also gives customers the impression that the company doesn't know what it's doing, said Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst of Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif.
"The problem is that Microsoft keeps changing how they are [handling updates]," he said. "With the forced upgrades, 'take it or leave it' approach … customers could have gotten used to it."
'A lack of innovation'
The decision reflects a lack of innovation on Microsoft's part, Mueller said.
"This is the first time in over a year when Windows doesn't have a leader," Mueller said. "That sends a signal."
In March 2018, Microsoft announced that Windows Executive Vice President Terry Myerson was leaving the company. Consequently, the Windows and Devices Group split in two, with Brad Anderson leading Enterprise Mobility + Security and Rajesh Jha leading the Experiences + Devices.
"Companies don't know who to complain to or who to work with," Mueller said. "For Windows, Microsoft needs to be very clear about who's in charge of what."
The fact that Microsoft has not yet released an official Windows 10 roadmap for 2020 is another bad sign, he said. Microsoft is expected to release a major Windows 10 update 20H1 in 2020 but has not announced exactly what it will entail.
Instead, Microsoft has shifted its focus away from providing an end-user product to providing more Opex friendly services, Pierre said.
"Operating systems aren't sexy anymore," he said.