After the Anniversary Update: What’s next for Windows 10?

Now that the Microsoft's Anniversary Update is live, the company is planning two major updates for next year.

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update may have just been released, but Microsoft never rests: It's well into work on the next two major updates for Windows, code-named Redstone 2 and Redstone 3. (Redstone 1 was the code name for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.) Why Redstone? In the popular game Minecraft, which Microsoft bought in May 2014, redstone is an ore you mine and then use as a power source.

Microsoft has stayed fairly mum about what will be in the Redstone 2 and 3 updates, but it has confirmed that neither will be available this year. In a Technet blog entry, senior product marketing manager Nathan Mercer writes, "Based on feedback from organizations moving to Windows 10, [the Anniversary Update] will be our last feature update for 2016, with two additional feature updates expected in 2017." Those "feature updates" are the Redstone ones.

There has been some speculation that the Redstone 2 release has been designed to coincide with the rollout of a wave of new Windows 10 hardware, and so will include features specifically designed to highlight the hardware's benefits. (As for Redstone 3, Microsoft hasn't said anything about it, and the release is so far away that there has been no speculation about what might be in it.)

In other words: Expect new features for Continuum, the shape-shifting technology in which Windows adjusts its interface to the device it's running on. For example, when you're using a two-in-one device such as a Surface tablet with a keyboard and you remove the keyboard, Continuum automatically switches to tablet mode.

The Redstone 2 update may also have features for the Surface pen and for Windows Hello authentication, which uses fingerprint readers, face recognition and other biometric authentication tools.

The updates will be tested and delivered in the same way that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update was -- first to members of Microsoft's Insider Program via a series of public preview builds and then, when the updates are final, via Windows Update.

First preview build of Redstone 2

The first public preview build of Redstone 2, Build 14901 was released on August 11. This first release included no new significant features, and instead focused more on Windows 10's plumbing.

An announcement about the preview build on Microsoft's Insider Hub (accessible only to those who are running Windows 10) noted that in the first Redstone 2 build, "You won't see any big noticeable changes or new features just yet. Just like just like we did after the release of the November Update, we are focusing on making some structural improvements to OneCore."

The blog goes on to explain, "If you recall -- OneCore is the shared core of Windows across PC, tablet, phone, IoT, Hololens and Xbox. It is essentially the heart of Windows. We're doing some code refactoring and other engineering work to make sure OneCore is optimally structured for teams to start checking in new features and improvements in a few months. As a result, these builds may include more bugs and other issues that could be slightly more painful for some people to live with."

In other words, you probably don't want to get this public preview because it might be buggy and won't have any important new features. There's only one item the company highlighted in the blog about the build -- new notifications in File Explorer that tell people about features they might want to try in Windows 10.

So we'll still have to wait a while to see what significant updates Microsoft has planned for Windows 10. When there's anything notable, we'll be sure to let you know.

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Preston Gralla

Computerworld (US)
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