Coming next Spring: Redstone 2, the next major update to Windows 10.
Microsoft is now hard at work developing the next major update for Windows 10. Codenamed 'Redstone 2', this next update is rumored to launch in the Spring of 2017 and will focus on productivity improvements for the desktop, and will bring much-needed features and enhancements to Windows 10 Mobile users.
Microsoft began development of Redstone 2 a couple of months before Redstone 1 (Anniversary Update) was signed-off internally. This is standard procedure for Microsoft engineers, as it allows them to start planning features and working on them ahead of time. The company says the first several Redstone 2 builds will not include new features, as they are currently working on refactoring OneCore, the subsystem of Windows 10 that helps make it scale universally across many devices.
Redstone 2 will focus on productivity improvements for the desktop and much-needed features and enhancements for mobile.
Redstone 2 was originally scheduled to launch later this year and be a much smaller update when compared to the Anniversary Update. However, due to some internal delays and the company wanting to wait for new Surface hardware to release, Microsoft decided to pull back on plans to launch Redstone 2 this year and reschedule it for an early 2017 launch. Because of this, the Anniversary Update was the first (and only, hopefully) update to launch on its own within a single year.
Because Redstone 2 has been delayed, Microsoft can make it a much bigger update than originally planned, which is great news for Insiders and consumers who like to use new features. 2017 should see Microsoft launch two major updates for Windows 10: Redstone 2 in early 2017 and then a Redstone 3 in the summer/fall of 2017.
Microsoft has just started rolling out Redstone 2 builds for Insiders to test, via the rs_prerelease development branch. This is where Insiders will be getting their Redstone 2 Insider Preview builds when Microsoft releases them. PCs are the first to get new Redstone 2 preview builds, with Mobile builds following in a few weeks.
The Redstone 2 Insider Preview is just getting started, meaning we have several months of development left before this next update is ready for the public. Insiders are encouraged to begin submitted feedback and ideas now for Microsoft to start implementing them.
One of the features that Microsoft is working on is the "Office Hub." It will more tightly integrate Office 365 and Windows 10, providing easy and quick access to documents, email, and calendar. While there are a few options for where the Office Hub could live, the most promising is in the task bar alongside the Start Menu and Cortana.
Often a project consists of more than just a single Word document or PowerPoint. It's emails and images and contacts and documents and spreadsheets and a dozen other files and appointments and people. Working Sets will let you organize everything related to a project into a set, even if it lives in different apps, and even pin it to the Start Menu as a live tile.
Microsoft's universal cross-device clipboard isn't dead; it's only been hibernating. Originally a Microsoft Garage project, the software is now getting integrated into Windows 10 and Office 365, allowing you to copy and paste between your phone and PC with ease.
OneDrive File Placeholders
Microsoft infamously removed OneDrive file placeholders from Windows 10 back in 2015, a change that many were unhappy with. Microsoft's reasoning for this was that average consumers found them too confusing. But, with Redstone 2 it appears Microsoft is backtracking on this change.
Announced at Ignite 2016, Microsoft revealed that placeholders will return, though the feature will now be known as "On-Demand Sync." Recent Insider Preview builds include several references to this feature's return, so we'll likely see it show up very soon for testing.
According to sources familiar with the matter, Microsoft is working on a new People Bar that will show faces of recent/active contacts on your taskbar, down next to the System Tray.
In internal concepts (like the one seen above), contacts show up in circular icons similar to that in the People Hub. I'm told this feature will hook up to Skype, GroupMe and even Office for things like active collaborators within Office, with the ability to quickly message people by selecting their icon.
I'm told this is a feature planned for Redstone 2, even though it's been in development since before Windows 10 originally shipped back in 2015. It's been in the works under the name People Bar, and recent builds have seen code that represents this. However, Microsoft may opt to call it something different by the time it ships.
Bluetooth GATT support for wearables
Microsoft has gone on record claiming that Bluetooth GATT support will be on Windows Insider builds by the end of the year (2016). That timeline implies a general release during the Redstone 2 deployment in early 2017.
GATT is important to companies like Fitbit who rely on the Bluetooth profile to read and display phone notifications to their fitness wearables. Fitbit is standing by for the SDK update to enable Bluetooth GATT for Windows 10 and Mobile, and other companies will likely follow.
Contextual syncing between devices
Microsoft is working on bringing a contextual UI to Windows 10 that will pop up a notification telling the user that they are able to sync an apps state from another device and continue exactly where they left off. This will be done with the help of Cortana, which will pop up a notification whenever there's an app available to sync states. Internal documents suggest Microsoft is also looking at making the same feature able to restore an entire workspace, all with the tap of a button. Cortana will be able to contextually sync files, tabs, apps and more between devices, with contextual pop ups that require the user to do very little work getting back into a productive state when moving between form factors.
If needed, an app can simply handoff to Cortana for prompts and other tasks, making syncing a user's workflow between devices easier for developers and the user, as the user knows where to expect this functionality on every device they use. Microsoft calls these "global actions" internally, and with any luck we'll see them come to light very soon. Microsoft internally refers to this new feature as "Pickup where I left off" or "Flow", meaning the flow between devices.
Continuum for Phones
Windows 10 Redstone 2 will focus mostly on Windows 10 Mobile features and enhancements, with the first of those improvements showing up in Continuum. Microsoft is looking at finally making the Continuum environment look and feel much more like the desktop environment on a typical Windows 10 PC, with multi-window support, a fully functional task bar and Action Center, and a whole lot more.
Here's what we can expect to see show up in Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile with Redstone 2:
- Independent Monitor Idle – Let one screen time out while you keep working on the other one
- Proximity Connect – Keep your phone in your pocket and connect wirelessly to your dock
- Customizable – Independently customizable Start screens across connected devices
- More PC-like experience – Enable "win key + type"; Taskbar app pinning, System tray Windowing
But wait, there's more!
Stay tuned at Windows Central over the coming weeks for more exclusive Redstone coverage, including what Microsoft is planning for the next major set of updates in 2017.