Believe it or not, the Windows 10 (20H1) feature update for Microsoft’s flagship operating system has been in testing since February 2019.

In that 14 month period, more than 50 public builds have been released across the Skip Ahead, Fast, Slow, and as of yesterday – the Release Preview Rings in the Windows Insider Program.

I am pretty sure it is the longest public development cycle for any feature update on Windows 10. The final major build of what is now known as the May 2020 Update for Windows 10, Build 19041, has been sitting in the Slow Ring since December. Since then it has been regularly serviced by Microsoft to address bugs, stability, and security updates just like its production counterparts.

Windows 10 May 2020 Update

Yesterday, Microsoft released Windows 10 May 2020 Update Build 19041.207 to Windows Insiders in the Release Preview Ring as the final stage of pubic testing before its expected wider release next month.

Compared to the November 2019 Update for Windows 10, which was a cumulative update along with a handful of enhancements, the May 2020 Update is a full fledged feature update and delivers more than 50 new features and enhancements. You can review the entire list on the What’s new for Windows 10 Insider Preview Builds (20H1) page at Microsoft Docs.

You can sit tight and wait for the May 2020 Update to be made available for your Windows 10 based device when it arrives on Windows Update starting next month or you can use one of several methods to seek the update and install it manually. Alternatively, you can always enroll your current Windows 10 device in the Windows Insider Release Preview Ring and get the update now. Instructions on how to do this are available from Microsoft.

At this point in the development cycle, things are pretty stable with 20H1 but review the list of known issues just to insure your device is cleared.

Windows 10 (vNext)

Just as Windows 10 (20H1), aka the May 2020 Update, landed in the Windows Insider Slow Ring for extended testing, Microsoft also began publishing builds for Windows 10 (vNext)

Windows 10 (vNext) is not a branch of Windows 10 that is targeting a specific update for the operating system. Rather, it is where the latest and greatest features for Windows 10 in general will begin their testing. At some point during this branches development, Microsoft will decide to fork it into another branch, targeting an update for the production version of the operating system.

So for instance, when they branch off Windows 10 (vNext) sometime this Spring or Summer, it will likely be labelled as 20H2 as the second update for Windows 10 in 2020 – expected in the second half of the year.

In the meantime, builds have been released fairly steadily since December with a total of 14 being pushed out to Windows Insiders. They are not full of new features and enhancements but I suspect that will pick up after the May 2020 Update for Windows 10 becomes generally available.

What’s Next for Windows 10 Development

In the short term we will have Windows 10 May 2020 Update in Release Preview and Slow Ring plus Windows 10 (vNext) in Fast Ring. Once the May 2020 Update is released next month, I suspect we will just be looking at Fast Ring builds of Windows 10 (vNext) for several weeks while Windows software engineers start to plug in new features in this early development branch of the operating system.

Once they get a sense that they have what they are looking for towards the 20H2 update for Windows 10, we will see them fork that into its own development branch for further refinement towards a fall release.

Of course, there will not be any Skip Ahead Ring as that has been deprecated with this new Windows 10 (vNext) approach to development.

Now that Panos Panay leads both the software and hardware aspects of Windows, it will be interesting to see how the development process for Windows 10 moves forward. Of course, we also have a new Windows Insider Program lead, Amanda Langowski, who is very familiar with flighting for Windows 10 and may bring her own style and brand to the program over the next few months.

Finally, with the delay of Surface Neo and Windows 10X for dual-screen devices until 2021, it is possible we might see an opportunity for testing Windows 10X on single screened devices this year. If that happens, I know quite a few low end devices, like Surface Go, that would potentially be a great platform for Windows 10X.

What are you most looking forward to in Windows 10 development?

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