Microsoft previews new way to upgrade Windows 10

Microsoft, which has not given up on pushing frequent feature changes to Windows 10 users, this week introduced the concept of Windows Feature Experience Packs as a way to increase the number of times during a year when customers receive new shiny things.

On Monday, Microsoft released a preview of a first Windows Feature Experience Pack to participants in the company’s Windows Insider beta program. “By testing this process first with Windows Insiders, we hope to expand the scope and the frequency of releases in the future,” Brandon LeBlanc, a senior program manager, wrote in a post to a company blog. “Eventually, Windows Feature Experience Pack updates will get folded into the already existing servicing process for Windows 10 and delivered to customers that way through Windows Update.”

These feature packs, for lack of a better short form, have been bubbling in Redmond for some time: Two years ago, a Windows 10 support document mentioned them. (ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, who reported Monday on LeBlanc’s post, had also called out the Windows Feature Experience Pack in June as it was being delivered to some users.)

The idea behind the feature packs, LeBlanc explained, is to ship “features and experiences” using a mechanism outside the two-a-year feature upgrade cycle already established for Windows 10. (Such features and functionalities could be installed independently of the OS because they were developed to be independent of the operating system, as, for example, is the Edge browser.)

This debut included just two minor enhancements to existing features. The first allows users to save screenshots or snippets of the screen captured by the Snip & Sketch tool to a designated folder, rather than automatically to the Pictures/Screenshots folder. The other supports a split keyboard for the touch keyboard on 2-in-1 devices.

Windows Feature Experience Packs will be served up to users through Windows Update, as LeBlanc said. They will thus rely on the same servicing technology used to deploy each month’s security update, the other monthly deliveries (including the optional updates on the third or fourth Tuesday of each month) and notably, the “minor” feature upgrades for Windows 10 shipped in November of both 2019 and 2020.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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