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Windows 10 'Anniversary Update' Release: Parsing the Fine Print

The official launch of Windows 10's newest major update on Tuesday came with a number of caveats, as well as some unexpected perks for IT.

Windows 10's "Anniversary Update," otherwise known as version 1607 and previously code-named "Redstone," is notable for delivering major feature updates to the OS, including an update to the Windows Hello biometric security service, the Cortana personal assistant and inking screen-drawing capabilities for end users.

The update is mostly already here. But availability will depend, in part, on which service-branch model an organization is following, and even what management tool they use. Microsoft also disclosed this week that this release will be the last of its kind, at least for this year.

Arrived and Yet To Come
Here's how that works. Microsoft updates Windows 10 on a monthly basis in accordance with its new service-enabled update model. However, its major Windows 10 OS feature updates are supposed to arrive twice a year, in the summer and fall. At least that was Microsoft's early plan.

Consequently, this Windows 10 version 1607 release might be thought of as the first such major update release to happen in 2016. However, Microsoft clarified this week in a "What's new for IT pros" blog post that there will not be a second major feature update arriving this year:

Windows 10, version 1607 is our third Windows 10 feature update released. Based on feedback from organizations moving to Windows 10, this will be our last feature update for 2016, with two additional feature updates expected in 2017.

Moreover, Microsoft considers Windows 10 version 1607 to be a "current branch" (CB) release. Version 1607 is available now through the Windows Update service in Windows 10, the MSDN Subscriptions Center and the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center, as well as via a 90-day evaluation trial copy.

This Windows 10 version 1607 release will reach "current branch for business" (CBB) status in about four months' time, Microsoft's blog explained. Those IT pros looking for the "long-term servicing branch" (LTSB) release of Windows 10 version 1607 won't find it because the LTSB release "will be available beginning October 1," Microsoft's blog explained.

Exactly why the LTSB release is delayed till October wasn't explained.

Later Arrival for SCCM and WSUS
It's possible to use management tools to delay Windows 10 updates. Third-party software management tools can be used or Microsoft's own System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) products can be tried. However, Windows 10 version 1607 actually will be arriving later -- on Aug. 16 -- for organizations using Microsoft's management tools, according to Microsoft's blog post:

If you have already deployed Windows 10 and use Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and/or System Center Configuration Manager servicing plans, you can get the Windows 10, version 1607 update on August 16th.

Microsoft didn't explain this apparent delay, but it may be timed with an SCCM update rollout. SCCM update 1606 has been rolling out since July, and it's said to have the capability to manage the Windows 10 anniversary update.

Windows 10 Servicing
IT pros can't ignore Microsoft's somewhat obscure Windows 10 update model if they want to deploy the operating system. These branch-release milestones will determine whether Windows 10 continues to get updated or not. Failure to track the major branch changes could put an organization on a dead service branch, with no future Windows 10 updates arriving.

The update pace an organization faces with Windows 10 will depend on the branch model it has chosen to follow. In a nutshell, CB releases happen monthly, while CBB releases happen three times per year. Followers of the LTSB approach get annual updates, and this option is the only one that permits long-term update deferrals (up to 10 years, in theory). The CBB model is what Microsoft thinks most organizations should follow, and that means they must move to the next CBB release within a year's time, approximately.

Microsoft's explanation of these Windows 10 servicing options can be found in this TechNet article.

It seems that organizations following the CBB update model that deployed Windows 10 version 1511 will need to move to Windows 10 version 1607 in about four months' time, at latest, or they'll risk not getting future OS updates. For a check, see the version tracking in Microsoft's release history for Windows 10, which can be found at this page.

At this point, many IT pros may be wondering how to block the arrival of Windows 10 version 1607. They can't block it. They can only defer its arrival. LTSB users have the greatest deferral power. On the other end of the spectrum, consumer users of Windows 10 have no ability to delay updates.

IT Perks
Microsoft seems to have underplayed the IT perks that get enabled with the Windows 10 version 1607 release. Microsoft's blog post for IT pros just named a few of them.

For instance, Windows 10 version 1607 enables Windows Information Protection (a data leakage protection service for devices), Windows Hello for Business (a password replacement scheme), and simplified provisioning via the Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer (ICD) option in the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit.

Microsoft is claiming that ICD can be easily enabled without having to add a bunch of other imaging components to the Deployment Kit. ICD now enables "simple provisioning" for Active Directory-joined devices and "advanced provisioning" for managing certificates.

An Upgrade Analytics service can be used to determine enterprise upgrade readiness for Windows 10. However, it's part of Microsoft's Operations Management Suite product. Upgrade Analytics was still just available at the preview stage as of last month.

On the management side, it's possible to use the Remote Desktop Connection service with Azure Active Directory-joined PCs using Windows 10 version 1607. That capability previously was just supported with Active Directory-joined Windows 10 PCs.

IT pros can more easily manage Start and Taskbar apps with the new update version. There's also a Shared PC Mode introduced with Windows 10 version 1607 that lets IT pros set up a guest PC.

Microsoft also pushed two of its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack tools, namely App-V and User Experience Virtualization, into the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10 version 1607. Adding them to the OS in this way will facilitate automatic updates of those tools.

There are loads of other Windows 10 version 1607 perks. Most can be found in this "what's new" TechNet article.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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