Microsoft disbands three-ring Windows Insider circus and replaces it with 'channels'

Redmond decides volunteer crash-test dummies care about quality, not speed

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Microsoft has announced major changes to Windows previews.

The company currently operates a three-ring circus for these things, with a "fast" ring offering new-but-rough-edged code, a "slow" ring that delivers more stable builds and a "release preview" ring that delivered updates to already-live versions of Windows 10.

But now principal program manager lead Amanda Langowski reckons Microsoft drifted away from the original purpose of the three rings, as illustrated by the fact that "In the middle of 2019, Insiders were running builds from 3 different releases (at various stages in our development cycle) with the Fast ring being on 20H1, the Slow ring on 19H2 code, and the Release Preview ring on 19H1 code."

Her answer is "a new channel model that pivots on the quality of builds and better supports parallel coding efforts." Better yet, the new model will be consistent across Windows, Office, Edge and even Teams.

So what is the new model? It's now a three-channel circus, as follows:

  • Dev Channel replaces the fast ring and is billed as "ideal for highly technical users". Builds in this channel "will contain the latest work-in-progress code from our engineers" and "will have rough edges and some instability that could block key activities or require workarounds." Dev Channel code won't be tied to a particular Windows 10 release;
  • Beta Channel replaces the slow ring and is recommended for "early adopters" and those who want to play with upcoming Windows 10 features in "relatively reliable updates that are validated by Microsoft." Code in this channel is tied to a specific upcoming Windows 10 release.
  • Release Preview Channel will deliver "the upcoming release of Windows 10 prior to it being released to the world, with advanced quality updates and certain key features." Code will be supported. Microsoft suggests this channel as the way to "preview and validate upcoming Windows 10 releases before broad deployment."

Microsoft will migrate Insiders from their current ring into the corresponding channel and it remains possible to move between channels.

While the new scheme for Windows Insiders more closely resembles the Office Insider scheme, the two remain discrete and members need to opt in and pick the channel they desire in each programme.

Langowski hinted that could change, writing: "We are looking to improve this experience over time." ®

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