Microsoft starts testing next year's Windows 10 feature updates

Windows 10 Cloud Wallpaper
Windows 10 Cloud Wallpaper (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has just flighted its first "Skip Ahead" build of Windows 10 for Insiders today, but this one comes with a twist. Instead of testing builds that are for the next-next Windows 10 feature update, codenamed 19H2, the Skip Ahead ring today received a 20H1 build, making that the next-next-next Windows 10 feature update scheduled for spring 2020.

As of right now, the majority of the Windows team is hard at work on the next Windows 10 feature update, codenamed 19H1 and scheduled for release this spring. This update includes things like a new light theme, improvements to the Action Center, Windows Sandbox, and a whole lot more. 19H2 is the update scheduled for the fall of this year, and isn't in testing with Insiders just yet. So it's surprising to see Microsoft start flighting 20H1 builds to Insiders in the Skip Ahead so soon, as that update is coming after the fall 2019 update, which isn't even in testing yet.

First 20H1 Skip Ahead build for Insiders is now rolling out

Microsoft says that this time around, the Fast and Release Preview rings will be used to test 19H1 and 19H2 builds respectively, which sounds like Microsoft is planning to leverage the Release Preview ring much more with this release. Microsoft may be planning to ship multiple 19H1 builds to the Release Preview ring, and slowly move on to 19H2 in the Fast ring once that process takes place. Skip Ahead users will continue to test 20H1 builds, but it's unclear if this ring will always be two releases ahead, or if the Fast and Skip Ahead rings will catch up once again in the future.

The Redmond giant says the reason 20H1 builds are going into testing this early is because its working on new features that require a much longer lead time. Treading into speculative territory, but I think this has something to do with Windows Core OS or CShell. I'm told that Windows Lite won't be ready until sometime in 2020, likely the first half of 2020, and I'm also told Windows Sets is a huge part of the overall Windows Lite experience. I'm wondering if Microsoft is now flighting 20H1 builds so it can get more feedback on Sets, without forcing users to install Windows Lite when it's announced at Build. It could also have something to do with testing a new desktop shell powered by CShell.

Windows 10 19H1: The complete changelog

Either that, or 19H2 has something Microsoft isn't ready to talk about yet? We'll find out soon enough. Are you part of the Skip Ahead ring? What are your thoughts on this change. Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads