Microsoft has reached that stage in the development cycle for Redstone 4, the fifth overall feature update for Windows 10, where they are beginning to focus on stability for the upcoming release which is likely to happen in April.
March and September are the two times each year that Microsoft has set as their feature update readiness targets and then the update is made generally available the following month on Patch Tuesday – in this case that should be on April 10th, 2018.
Redstone 4, the code name for the Spring 2018 feature update, has been in development since last fall and this past week the 17th overall development build was released to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring. At the same time, Microsoft has once again established a Skip Ahead development branch which they have forked off the current Redstone 4 development channel.
You might recall this happened last year for the first time before the release of the Fall Creators Update and it allows a limited number of Windows Insiders to skip the stabilization builds that will now be the focus of Redstone 4 and start poking around in early builds in the the Redstone 5 development channel. Although new features will not be immediately forthcoming in the Redstone 5 builds, this is the point where Redstone 4 and 5 diverge in their own directions.
According to Microsoft, Skip Ahead is still full but there should be an ebb and flow as spots open up that would allow others to join the Skip Ahead branch. Keep in mind though, the numbers are limited because Microsoft still needs to test and collect telemetry for Redstone 4 to measure its stability as it approaches general availability and release in March/April 2018.
With that all said – I seem to have been able to get one of my bare metal devices into Skip Ahead from Redstone 4. I changed my Insider ring setting to Skip Ahead on this device and got the warning that this branch was full and my settings would be reverted to its previous settings. However, I went ahead and checked Windows Update and was able to download and upgrade to Build 17604, the first Skip Ahead build for Redstone 5, without any problem. Of course, my next test point for being in Skip Ahead for sure will be when the next Skip Ahead build is released to see if the device detects and installs it as expected.
In the meantime I have two other bare metal devices testing the latest Windows Insider Fast Ring build, 17101, and all three test devices are actually finally showing me Timeline data as they should. Personally, seeing Timeline working across multiple devices cements for me that it is the big feature for Redstone 4 – at least in my opinion.
Enjoy your testing and report all those bugs!