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Enterprise alert: Microsoft slates next Windows 10 LTSB release for 2019

Enterprise alert: Microsoft slates next Windows 10 LTSB release for 2019

Customers running 'Long-term Servicing Branch' will be freed from upgrades for at least three years

Microsoft won't issue another Windows 10 "Long-term Servicing Branch" (LTSB) build until 2019, a company official said last week.

"The next LTSB release is expected for 2019," Nathan Mercer, senior product marketing manager, said in an "Ask me anything"-style Q&A last week. "Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB 2016 is the current LTSB release."

The three-year gap between the current and future LTSB versions will be the longest yet for Windows 10's most constant edition. Microsoft labeled the debut release -- mid-2015's 1507, the latter the firm's yymm identifier for each feature upgrade -- as LTSB, then did the same with the next year's 1607. As Mercer noted, 1607 is the current LTSB release.

LTSB is one of three release tracks that enterprises can select for their Windows 10 devices. Unlike the others -- now called "Current Branch" (CB) and "Current Branch for Business" (CBB), but due to change this fall to the verbose "Semi-Annual Channel (Pilot)" and "Semi-Annual Channel (Broad)" -- LTSB does not suffer the twice-yearly upgrades that add new features and morph the user interface (UI). Instead, LTSB versions receive security updates only.

Microsoft conceded the need for LTSB because many corporate customers resisted the accelerated tempo of Windows 10's alterations. Enterprises wanted the option of sticking with the familiar upgrade cadence, under which a new OS appeared about every three years, with security fixes between each refresh.

LTSB was originally presented as an unchanging version, each iteration of which would be supported for 10 years, the same decade-long lifecycle as previous editions such as Windows 7.

But Microsoft gutted the value of LTSB when it changed the rules and declared that each LTSB would "support the currently released silicon at the time of release of the LTSB. As future silicon generations are released, support will be created through future Windows 10 LTSB releases that customers can deploy for those systems."

That meant customers running Windows 10 Enterprise -- the only edition that allows LTSB -- will be forced to upgrade to each LTSB release as they buy new PCs powered by new generations of silicon.

Microsoft's reason for changing LTSB's support policy was purportedly to ensure that customers would be able to take advantage of each new processor generation's benefits. But it also dashed enthusiasm for a channel that Microsoft had been reluctant to offer to begin with, and had regularly deprecated since.

However, because Microsoft will refrain from another LTSB until 2019, enterprises that covet LTSB will be able to run it in the knowledge that they won't have to upgrade this year or next, even as they deploy new devices powered by new silicon.

Windows 10 1607 will thus be supported on PCs equipped with Intel's seventh-generation "Kabylake" and eighth-generation "Coffeelake" architectures -- the 2016 and 2017 codenames, respectively -- as well as the 10nm "Cannonlake" expected later this year or in 2018.

Since Microsoft has committed to March and September releases, the next LTSB will be tagged either as 1903 or 1909.


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