Windows 10: RTM is dead (sorta) — Long live Windows as a Service

Zac Bowden

Windows 10

Ever since news broke of Windows 10 reaching the RTM (Release to Manufacturing) milestone of development, my inbox has been full of people claiming that I’m wrong about build 10240 (the build released to Insiders) being the official Windows 10 RTM. Build 10240 is the RTM, but not in the traditional sense.

For the last 30 years, when developing a new version of Windows, Microsoft eventually hits a point in which they are finished with development. This is known as the RTM milestone, a point in which Microsoft signs-off the version of Windows they have been working on and gives it out to OEMs and Partners. In the past, this was a very big and very physical affair. In 2002, when Windows XP hit RTM, it was sent to OEMs on a golden disk via helicopter, a freaking helicopter!

These days, it’s a little less exciting. With Windows 7, Microsoft announced that it had hit RTM via a blog post on its official Windows Blog, which is no longer available. The same happened with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 as well. Traditionally, Microsoft would hit RTM with a version of Windows months before the operating system was even scheduled for release.

But with Windows 10, things are different.

Before we move on, I just want to be dead clear with everyone. Build 10240 was sent to OEMs, it will be the build that is pre-loaded onto ALL new Windows 10 hardware, that in itself is enough to consider a build as the RTM. Moving on.

The RTM milestone as we used to know it is dead with Windows 10, but the idea of Windows RTM’ing still exists. Internally, Microsoft still took a look at build 10240 and said “OK, this is ready. Release it to manufacturing”, but the reasoning behind them RTM’ing at this stage differs from usual. Windows 10 is not done, it’s feature-base is not complete, but Microsoft needs a starting point for getting Windows 10 out of the door.

So, the RTM this time around is more like a starting point for OEMs and Microsoft to get Windows 10 out into the public. It is not a finished product, there is still a whole bunch to do, but Microsoft most definitely Released To Manufacturing last week. Because of the Windows 10 RTM being compiled even though Windows 10 isn’t done, I understand many will automatically assume that means Windows 10 is buggy and unstable.

Not at all… Well, not really.

About a month before the Windows 10 RTM was compiled, Microsoft entered what is called ‘feature-lockdown’, meaning no new features are added to the operating system, and instead engineers focus on stabilizing code that’s already in the bag. So Microsoft spent about a month stabilizing and fixing bugs for the Windows 10 RTM, just this time with the RTM, it’s not feature-complete. That’s where Windows as a Service comes in.

The Windows as a Service idea is simple. Microsoft can continue working on Windows 10 with simple updates delivered via Windows Update. Microsoft will have yearly major releases, which include new features and changes users will most probably enjoy and love. The company will also be able to issue out fixes to more parts of the operating system such as the Start Menu with ease, thanks to a new codebase that the Start Menu utilizes. These fixes can come at more convenient times as well, and more often for fixes that are critical.

Even now, Microsoft is working on a bunch of fixes for July 29th. Windows 10 isn’t even out yet, and Microsoft is already working on fixes for users to download on day one. This is not a new practice for the company, Microsoft has been known to issue day one patches for Windows in the past, but that’s the general idea of Windows as a Service, and it’s an awesome one. Microsoft can finish up and deliver a version of Windows to manufacturers, but continue working on it with ease.

Because Windows is now on a yearly major release cycle, Microsoft is already working on the next major update, codenamed Redstone. In fact, Microsoft has been planning Redstone for months, moving features that were originally slated for the Windows 10 RTM over to the Redstone release in 2016, just so they could focus on getting Windows 10 out the door.

The Windows 10 RTM was originally supposed to include features like a brand new universal messaging app for texting and Skype, interactive live tiles and more. But all those features are now coming in Redstone (or another future update), and that’s made possible thanks to the Windows as a Service plan. These features will now arrive simply as an update sometime in the future, they will be downloaded just like any other update and users won’t even know the difference.

So in a nutshell, Windows 10 is never done. It did hit RTM, but the RTM we used to know and love is dead. RTM is now a starting point for OEMs and Microsoft to get Windows 10 out into public hands, and the Windows as a Service scheme insures that Windows 10 will constantly be updated with new features and fixes.