Microsoft waves goodbye to major Windows updates with August release

Microsoft WPC Windows 8 productivity apps

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Microsoft confirmed Tuesday that the next update to Windows 8.1 will take place on August 12, but said that users should expect future, minor updates on a steady cadence rather than intermittent milestone updates.

In fact, the updates on August 12 will simply be part of “Update Tuesday.” They will include improvements to the touchpad, the ability to use a Windows PC as a Miracast receiver, and a reduction in the number of times a user has to sign into a SharePoint site.

The minor updates to Windows and Windows Server will roll out on the same cadence, Microsoft said.

Here are some of the  August updates, in Microsoft's words:

  • Precision touchpad improvements – three new end-user settings have been added: Leave touch pad on when a mouse is connected; allow right-clicks on the touchpad; double-tap and drag.
  • Miracast Receive – exposes a set of Wi-Fi direct APIs for Independent Hardware Vendor (IHV) drivers or OEM drivers to develop Windows 32-bit applications that run on all supported x86-based or x64-based versions of Windows 8.1, enabling the computer as a Miracast receiver.
  • Minimizing login prompts for SharePoint Online – reduces the number of prompts with federated use in accessing SharePoint Online sites. If you select the “Keep me signed in” check box when you log on for the first time, you will not see prompts for successive access to that SharePoint Online site.

With the rollout, Microsoft has altered its longtime strategy of releasing a number of big fixes and feature additions in a single, attention-grabbing update. Apparently those will now be saved for major releases, such as Windows 9 or “Threshold,” due next year. 

Microsoft’s new strategy, apparently, is to deliver those updates as they arrive, rather than forcing users to wait. The updates have traditionally included security improvements to fix vulnerabilities, and now will include “a range of improvements,” Microsoft said, like improvements to the Windows Store or OneDrive.

“[R]ather than waiting for months and bundling together a bunch of improvements into a larger update as we did for the Windows 8.1 Update, customers can expect that we’ll use our already existing monthly update process to deliver more frequent improvements along with the security updates normally provided as part of ‘Update Tuesday,’” Microsoft blogger Brandon LeBlanc wrote Tuesday. “So despite rumors and speculation, we are not planning to deliver a Windows 8.1 ‘Update 2.’”

In 2013, Microsoft delivered Windows 8.1, a “do-over” release that helped fix some of the Windows 8 issues that most dissatisfied users, like the disappearance of the Start menu (Microsoft reinstated a Start button of sorts). In April, Microsoft continued pulling back from Windows 8 with Windows 8.1 Update, which included the ability to boot straight to the desktop. Although Microsoft made downloading Windows 8.1 Update voluntary, the company later said it would be mandatory to enable future security updates.

The August update will be delivered directly and automatically through Windows Update, Microsoft said, although users can also manually download it on the 12th. “Enterprises can take the update anytime,” LeBlanc added, and it will be an optional download via the Windows Server Update Services.

If nothing else, Microsoft has made Windows 9 even more important—and removed one of the attention-grabbing elements of Windows. Major updates typically are accompanied by a preview, a major announcement, and reviews—and a corresponding surge in interest in Windows. A series of relatively minor updates may please users, who will wait eagerly for their monthly updates. But the lack of big news may also deprive Windows of spotlight opportunities. What’s your take on the situation? Tell us in the comments below.

Updated at 12:12 to include the exact August updates, as per Microsoft.

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