Microsoft has made the next version of Windows, known as 21H1, available to commercial customers ahead of its release to General Availability.
The code's arrival is an indicator that the release, already lurking in the Windows Insider program, is just about ready. Although judging by the tumbleweed blowing through the Insider program, users should not expect much whizzbangery this time around.
Indeed, delivery will follow the same pattern as the update from 2004 to 20H2 and consist of an enablement package to bring things up to date; a first for an H1 (first half of the year) release, which have required a full install in the past.
"We optimized this release to support our customers' most pressing needs," explained Microsoft last month when it was attempting to justify the paucity of changes this time around.
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As such, 21H1 remains little more than a jumped-up servicing pack, the features of which will have already been downloaded to 2004 and 20H2 devices. A "master switch" will be flicked on by the enablement package to bring 21H1 to life.
Minor though it may be, it is still a change, and IT professionals responsible for fleets of Windows 10 devices must validate it before it is unleashed (just ask those unfortunates playing whack-a-mole with Microsoft's recent printer patches).
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Those using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) can opt to go for a full update to 21H1 or just test out the enablement package path. An ISO image is also available as well as a preview on Azure Marketplace for those who prefer their hardware virtual.
As for when the final release will occur, the experience of 20H2 would hint at a May arrival, just in time for Microsoft's Build event. So minor are the updates this time around, however, that there is every possibility that somebody within the bowels of Redmond might press the button early.
However, once 21H1 is out of the gate, Microsoft's long-suffering Windows fans will expect some sort of official clarification of what is to appear in the second half of 2021 (over and above the odd targeted "leak") and, whisper it, perhaps an update regarding the company's next great hope: Windows 10X. ®