Here’s what’s really happening with skipping ahead to 20H1, according to Mary Jo Foley

Laurent Giret

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Microsoft shipping the first 20H1 builds to Skip Ahead Insiders this month instead of 19H2 builds was pretty surprising, to say the least. This is an unprecendent move from the Windows Insider team, which at the time explained that “some things we are working on in 20H1 require a longer lead time.”

Well, according to new information from ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, you shouldn’t expect any big changes in the Windows 10 20H1 update to be released in the first half of 2020. As it turns out, this very early testing of 20H1 builds with Skip Ahead Insiders is the result of Microsoft wanting to align schedules between Windows and Azure development.

Following the major internal shakeup last year that led the Windows engineering team to join the Azure team, Foley says that the core OS team within Microsoft that deliver updates for core features like the kernel and networking stack now does that twice a year internally, in June and December. These major platform releases now ship to various teams including Xbox and now Azure, forcing the latter to soon ditch the customized version of Windows 10 Server it has been using for Azure platform updates.

According to Foley, the upcoming Windows 10 19H1 update is based on the December 2018 core OS platform release, but that’s not the case for the next major update for Azure. These misaligned schedules have forced Microsoft’s core OS team to skip the June 2019 internal platform release to focus on the December 2019 platform release, which will be the foundation for the Windows 10 20H1 update.

This is why Microsoft is already testing 20H1 builds with Skip Ahead Insiders, as the 19H2 update shipping later this Fall won’t be based on the June 2019 internal platform release (again, Microsoft is skipping this internal release). According to Foley, the 19H2 update will get some sort of special treatment:

Microsoft’s plan is to build 19H2 on top of 19H1 by adding some patches and features, and to back-port some of the 20H1 platform features to 19H2, my contacts say. Because the Windows client team is sticking to two feature releases a year, it has to do this kind of fancy footwork to deliver a Fall 2019 release. This 19H2 release might appear like a more minor update, but only to those paying close attention.

Mary Jo Foley’s information has been confirmed today by Windows Central’s Zac Bowden, who also heard the reason for these early 20H1 builds are “under the hood shenanigans,” and this could have nothing to do with upcoming new Windows 10 features.

Anyway, these under the hood changes won’t really matter for Windows 10 users, and Microsoft’s bi-annual schedule for Windows 10 updates isn’t changing either. However, Mary Jo Foley is hoping that “the realigned schedule will deliver at least some trickle-down improvements in the stability and consistency of the Windows core OS platform across Windows client, server and Xbox.”