Microsoft confirms that Windows 11 will receive annual feature updates
Next Tuesday, Windows 11 devices will receive new features as part of the monthly security update for the operating system. This is the second update that introduces new features outside of a major feature update release.
Naturally, some Windows administrators and users wondered, whether Microsoft would continue to release major feature updates each year for the operating system.
This question, and several more regarding smaller and major feature updates, has now been answered. In Continuous innovation coming to Windows 11 in March, Microsoft employee Harjit Dhaliwal confirms that Windows 11 will receive an annual feature update in the second half of the calendar year.
This feature update continues to be tied to a support lifecycle, which is 24 months of support for Home and Pro editions, and 36 months of support for Enterprise and Education editions.
Microsoft released the second smaller feature update for Windows 11 as a preview in February already. The company plans to release it on March 14, 2023 as part of the March cumulative update for Windows 11. You can check out the new features and changes of the second feature update for Windows 11 here.
Feature update differences
Dhaliwal explains that Microsoft received feedback from customers that "they want more from their Windows experience". These smaller feature updates provide benefits such as "improved security, productivity and collaboration". The updates are delivered using trusted servicing technology and "without sacrificing quality".
Organizations may use a new policy to control the rollout of new features to Windows 11 outside the scope of the annual feature update. Some organizations may prefer to block the rollout of these smaller feature changes or at least delay them.
System administrators may check out the support article Commercial control for continuous innovation for instructions on that. Basically, Microsoft aims to give organizations control over features that modify Windows 11 in a significant way. The company mentions the removal of existing capabilities, new in-box applications, the overriding of configured settings, or new experiences and user interfaces specifically.
On managed devices, all features that are "behind the commercial control" will be off by default on managed devices.
The policy Enable features introduced via servicing that are off by default, gives system administrators control over this default behavior.
Microsoft's strategy for Windows 11 going forward is simple: release an annual feature update for the operating system at the end of the year, and several smaller feature updates inbetween. The annual update includes all the features and changes of the smaller updates, and starts a new support lifecycle.
The original version of Windows 11 runs out of support at the end of 2023 for Home and Pro editions of Windows 11. These devices need to be updated either to the Windows 11 2022 Update, or to the Windows 11 2023 Update, which Microsoft will release at the same time.
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