Windows 10 desktop will come out before Phone in a staggered release cycle

Earlier today at Build, Microsoft held a special gathering of media and journalists to meet with some of the Windows leadership team. The purpose of the event was less formal, and more of a chance to interact with and ask questions. As such, video and photos were discouraged.

To kick off the nearly two-hour event, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore gave an introductory talk about some aspects of Windows 10 not yet widely known. One of those was in regards to the planned release cycle of Windows 10 updates and new hardware, including the phone.

For a few months now, Microsoft has been claiming that Windows 10 would be released "this summer". However, the status of Windows Phone in that release was not made too clear. Today we learned that, as many have guessed, Windows Phone will come out a bit later. Belfiore would not commit to a more definitive time frame, although it did not sound like it was that much later.

Indeed, we could be talking only a few weeks here, as this was intimated by Belfiore in his comments. What Microsoft is not promising at this time is a same-day release for everything. Fair enough.

Reasons for a staggered release

For those in the Windows Insider program, it should be obvious that Windows 10 for desktop is released earlier than the Windows Phone version by a few weeks and ahead by numerous builds. This discrepancy translates into the resultant staggered release plan for Windows 10 after the desktop version goes out.

Microsoft is targeting desktop first because it is their largest number of users when compared to phone customers. From that perspective, hitting your biggest group first makes total sense when devoting resources. This delay is not to say they find phone less important, certainly not. These are just the realities of making a unified operating system.

HoloLens, Surface Hub, and Xbox One were also on that list of coming later on, presumably this year. The good news here is Microsoft can use these staggered updates and releases to keep their achievements in the tech news cycle for the rest of the year. It also takes some pressure off of trying to line up such massive releases for all systems on the same day.

Windows Insider program will continue

Some good news though is that the Microsoft preview program dubbed Windows Insider will continue beyond the RTM release of Windows 10.

Fast ring and slow ring will be the options, at least for now. Those on the fast ring are likely looking at two updates a month to try out new features before they go to slow ring, and then pushed in the main build.

In speaking with Microsoft's Gabriel Aul, also in attendance, he said they are still considering adding more 'rings' to the Windows Insider program. One ring may be 'finalized by not yet approved for public release'. This proposed ring is analogous to the Preview for Developers program, which released finalized builds of the OS before carriers had their approval. So this would be slower than Slow ring, but faster than the public version.

Another Windows Insider ring that still may see the light of day would be a 'ludicrous ring' for daily builds. Aul notes the data gathered from these releases would be very useful to his team, who could do more A-B testing to get feedback from users. However, there are clearly greater risks too.

Windows 10

Windows 10

The takeaway

For many weeks now, I have been saying the Windows Phone version of Windows 10 won't be ready for a while. The rawness of the current previews testifies to that fact. However, Microsoft has some bigger releases coming in May, and I think you will be surprised at how fast Windows 10 for mobile cleans up and become more coherent.

For Microsoft, these raw builds are normal. However, for customers, it's a new jarring experience. But in speaking with Microsoft today, they are very confident that this will all pull together over the next few months, and I for one believe them.

More importantly, we need to change our mindset. Windows 10 is never going to be 'final'. Sure, there will be an RTM flight to OEMs for release, but the point here is to think of Windows as a Service. Not a subscription service, but an OS that is constantly and frequently being iterated upon with new features driven by a long-term plan and user feedback.

This Windows as a service is an ambitious model, one that does not have any precedent. For now, I think we should keep an open mind to see what transpires over the next few months heading into summer.

All I can say is this: when talking to Microsoft's Windows leadership team, they have full confidence that they can pull this off, and I see no qualms when they talk about the future. So let's see if they can do it.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

250 Comments
  • Is anyone surprised?
  • Not really to be honest, but its always good to know its been made official known now.
  • Joe doesn't need to say Windows Phone isn't a priority for Microsoft, everyone can plainly see that.
  • Yeah, I mean they only designed a bunch of tools and an entire operating system for it.
  • Well, at least it will be a steady stream of new Windows products, as you mentioned. Some fresh hardware and features, though, would be nice. I think ATT forgot about "denim" on the 830.
  • Yeah, I've been cussing about that for weeks.
  • I'm still waiting for denim on the unbranded and unlocked L830.
  • I have it on mine, you may have an issue that needs to be addressed.
  • No. I think it's coming to phones by 2016. By then I expect the OS to be fully functional and bug free.
  • You'll find a unicorn before you fond anything bug free
  • Don't expect bug free even when 10.1 is finally released.
  • I agree. You won't see a flagship WP10 on sale IN stores till this time next year. By the time they finish it, develop the phones and have the carriers test them, it will be March or April 2016 at the earlieat.
  • Say the same here. Carriers are going to be the hold up for release.
  • Carriers take the least amount of time ...
  • You're kidding, right! Then please explain the reason why 8.1/Cyan, released by Microsoft on June 24th, was sent to my phone in November.
  • Not like Microsoft works directly with carrier. Updates have to get cleared by several parties before even reaching carrier.. Carriers take about a week to test. Not as if Microsoft's status page is accurate. If they wanted to be transparent they could, but it'd only look bad on Microsoft. If only they had less models/variants they could release updates all at once.
  • I was originally thinking this Fall, but forgot about hardware OEMs needing to test on devices and carriers need to test the OS on their networks. This thing could very realistically slip into 2016 and Mobile World Congress.  
  • No, the new flagship mobile device will be launched before the end of the year, probably November 2015. Then, around July or so in 2016, I might buy a very discounted Lumia 1030 or 1040 (whatever the name will be). Why? Because this is how it works in online retailers in Sweden. They have done it so far with Windows Phone flagships and will most likely continue doing so. Meanwhile, iPhones almost never ever get any heavy discounts half a year after release, because Apple don't do that.
  • Where do you people get these ideas from?
  • There is no such thing as big free, even on the supposedly polished iOS.
  • RTM will be some kind of slowest ring
  • What happened to the mobile first thing?
  • Depends on how you define 'mobile' but with Windows 10 the vast majority revolves around 'mobile'.
  • It's the Android and iOS part.
  • I think they're spreading themselves too thin with these. Who's going to maintain and support them in the long run? They should have focused on making Windows 10 the best experience first and foremost, for both users and devs. I understand most devs complain about the APIs being very limiting in comparison to other platforms. Now it's WP 8.1 all over again. Correct me if I'm wrong.
  • They are not spreading themselves too thin, as aren't Windiv and Devdiv 2 separate parts of MS? The API is also not limiting, what makes you say that? So yeah, I guess you're wrong ;)
  • Laptops and tablets are considered "mobile" as well, not just smartphones.
  • There was never any doubt. I don't think the phone OS will be dine before winter. They're far behind and slow
  • It only turned May today. Another two months and the OS will look drastically better. Remember: we have an old build of Win 10 mobile in our hands right now. The current, internal releases are a lot better, surely (although they seem not to be ready for testing just yet, obviously).
  • When will OS 8.1 GDR2 be released then?
  • After Windows 10
  • Already have it on my Lumia 930 and trust me you aren't missing out anything. Settings menu? You'll get over it. It's not going to help much.
  • What about the Bluetooth keyboard support. That is a big plus in my opinion. Really looking forward to Continuum on the new phones. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • You are very dumb, fo real.
  • its a bit more complicated than that. Im not sure if you have a lot of knowledge of kernels and such? anyway, the reality is ALWAYS different than the marketing reality... to put it in plain terms, the goal here is for ONE platform, they are using the term "one OS" because its simple and gives an idea to people that know what an OS is that there will only be one OS because if they go on and say its ONE kernel that is dynamic and they can pick and choose what parts of the OS is switched on or off then that's just confusing. remember, phones need extra layers that PC's just have no use for. This is the reality, and this is why they simply cant have one true OS with the exact same build. But you can market (key term) that you have one OS because they are being built under the same kernel just different builds of this OS. just reading it sounds confusing and that's why they market the term One OS. Windows NT is the real mastermind behind windows 10 but the public doesn't care about kernels lol (I do :D)
  • So true! I am a hobby programmer. Mostly dedicated to Linux desktop and Linux console applications, but I have made Windows Phone apps as well. I know how to configure a Linux kernel and have done so on numerous occasions. The Windows NT 10 kernel is not open source, so I can't configure and recompile it, but .. I do now that kernels can either be monolithic or microkernels, etc. The kernel is what drives the OS, along with the kernel drivers for graphics, I/O, etc. The rest are just applications on top and hardware peripherals plugged in.
  • Well said and a WNT story many are unaware of.  Remember HAL in Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssey?  Wonder where the name HAL came from? Add one letter to H A L and get I B M Add one letter to V M S and get W N T What's VMS you ask?  DEC's virtual memory OS spawned in the late 70s.  One of the architects was Dave Cutler.  Bill Gates offered Cutler 1% of Microsoft to work in Redmond.  Dave said yes and named their new OS WNT that started a new era for MSFT. Yes the kernel is important and I like how it got its name.  
  • You sound like your not working with a full deck there pal... Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Ha ha ha
  • Because they aren't making any new OS but making changes in 2 different OS and unifying them is the final target. So they are trying to unifying two different OS - will make them one. If I am not wrong Microsoft released Technical Preview for Desktop last year and for phone this year. So they didnt start at same time, why do they finish at same time?
  • You're right. What I don't get though. Is that since the whole purpose is to unify and have one is on all devices. Whyyy didn't they start development of windows 10 for both more closely together. I don't really get that logic. Not complaining. It just doesn't make much sense to me
  • I think the core of the OS is what's the same. Like the API's and stuff. They need to take out the parts that a phone can't do, and put in the parts that only a phone can do to build the phone version of the OS. They need to add optimized versions of the UI elements.
  • First off, universal apps are literally a single application; The user interface scales between devices and window sizes, but its all the same app. They are released at the same time. Second, Windows 10 is one OS, but they can't just slap x64 desktop Windows into a phone and call it good. Not only does Windows 10 have to be tailored to the ARM architecture, but also to the small screen size and the usage case. Some interfsce elements have to be tailored for mobile (I.E Hub Control <ー> Panorama), and other things have to be added in, such as the functionality for phone calls, sms/mms messaging, one handed use, etc. This means that Windows 10 for mobile will naturally be behind, as it first relies on the core Windows 10 builds to add things in, then it has to tailor those things for mobile as aforementioned. If you want further proof they are the same OS and a single appreciate, look no further than continuum for Phones. The UI scales up into a desktop environment, and universal applications use the same desktop and tablet interface that they would on any other tablet or desktop computer ruining Windows 10. This literally proves that they are one OS, and that universal apps are one scalable/adaptive application.
  • I have windows 10 on my phone right now.  So yes people will launch apps for Windows and Windows on a phone on the same day.  It's even called Outlook.  I can reach into my pocket and in a couple seconds run the same app on both Desktop and Phone.  But there are apps that Windows Phone needs that Windows Desktop doesn't like its dialer app.   That dialer app could run on both but you can launch a desktop OS without a dialer app.  You can't launch a phone OS without a dialer app.  So yes the core OS could be done and be the exact same OS as a desktop but be delayed a couple weeks as you tune the bundled applications that people expect to have on day one.  Similarly you can launch a Desktop OS with terrible power management that isn't efficiently tuned because your desktop is plugged into a wall.  But with a month of tuning you could refine the settings in the OS and patch the OS to be more power efficient.    However if your phone dies after 6 hours of idling in your pocket you'll ditch the OS.  Once again you can't launch the exact same OS to two different device classes because one is less demanding than the other.  You could also launch the Desktop Windows 10 without continuum for touch mode even though it's the same OS as the Surface Windows 10 and then later release a Tablet friendly version that's the same OS but adds continuum mode.    The core OS is the same but the shell is slightly different.  Similarly you can have "Ubuntu" and use Gnome or you can use KDE.  Same OS... completely different user interface.  I could go on and on and on but you're just a simple troll so why bother...
  • @wpkevin,I think you just don't want to get it?
  • • A: AFAIK Universal Outlook cannot do any of what you mentioned on the desktop. • B: Laptops and desktops differences are trivial. They the same machine, different form factor, to simplify. • C: Windows 10 Mobile runs on a different architecture (ARM), and is reliant on the features of the core Windows 10 OS. It's impossible to optimize an element for mobile devices if it doesn't even exist yet. As such, the Mobile SKU has to be behind in development if it is to be optimized for mobile. • D: You didn't even read. The UI scales based on the device. If an app was a physical package, there would only be one. If a developer launches a universal app, they've launched a universal app. They can't just launch the PC app and not the mobile app, because then it would not be a universal app. A universal application is a single app that scales automatically based on the device and Windows size, not multiple apps under the same name for different devices. The APIs are part of this scaling, which ties back into my original point that they need to have mobile optimizations implemented AFTER it is built in to the core Windows 10 OS in order for universal apps to work right. Too Long; Clearly Didn't Read: A universal app is a single package that relies on the API to scale based on the size of the window and the device it is ran upon, and the mobile SKU requires features to be implemented in the core operating system before they are optimized, thus requiring that it have a later release schedule.
  • I'm going to take it that: A. You lack reading comprehension, B. You fail to understand the specifics that I am explaining, or C. You enjoy trolling users online as a pastime, And so I shall take my leave.
  • You sound like you know what you're talking about. Are you a Microsoft employee?
  • You can have One OS but need to write all of the drivers for a specific hardware system.   Why do you think Microsoft has a "RTM" build?  It's called "Release to Manufacturers".   Phones are highly integrated systems which require custom drivers.  Laptops are the same but they require less custom driver work and even then Microsoft releases an RTM build months in advance to give the laptop manufacturers time to tune their software to the new OS.  I am also developing an embedded linux machine right now.  It's Linux aka the same Linux that is in Ubuntu but it also needs to have the kernel options and drivers tuned for my specific device.  You can't just take Linux and install it on a Raspberry Pi you have to ensure all of the drivers and kernel options are correct, you have to ensure the bootloader works properly and on top of that OS you can have different installation options and update mechanisms to update the OS.   You clearly know absolutely nothing about systems development so the fact that this proves to you something that isn't at all indicated by this announcement shouldn't be a surprise.  Another way to put this is: a website can run on one webserver but release its mobile site months later.   Yes both run HTML and javascript.  Yes both are running on Apache or IIS, yes both use a web browser, yes both are TCP sockets, yes both use HTTP requests and responses.  But there is still work to be done on ensuring the mobile presentation of the same code works smoothly.  You wouldn't (I hope) say that the fact that Facebook's mobile site takes a few weeks to update after a change to the desktop site proves that they use different webservers. 
  • If it is not the same build and if it's not 100% the same code, it's not a unified OS. It's converging, but that's pretty much it. I just hope, there will be no further separation on basic building blocks. If we get VPN, it should be the same on phones and desktops. I guess, this will finally be the case. I really think, MSFT had all those building blocks in 2010. Hell, Silverlight apps on Xbox 360 and desktops would have been no problem. WP could have easily scaled to tablets.
  • What's the winning strategy?
  • If someone of us wanted android they would just buy it. At least for me, making custom build of android and calling it windows would be step that would drive me out from windows phone. But then again you are probably not just stupid just trolling people last few days.
  • If you want Android apps, buy an Android phone! It's a much simpler solution. No point blatantly copy-pasting your Android app to the Windows Store.
  • Thank you for filling my inbox with an irrelevant discussion ;)
  • Damn I'm so grateful your not in charge of Microsoft. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I don't think you understand how sotware developement or operating systems work. They already commited to release W10 in the summer, so they are pushing that aspect of it out, possibly a bit too fast. It's very easy to not release to all devices when you A) controll what gets released when, and B) haven't finished that aspect of the OS. Unified OS doesn't mean they work on every aspect of it at once.
  • +925 They aren't universal apps lol. But I don't think you have a strong programming background ;) Universal apps are based on WinRT (Windows Runtime) The runtime is *nearly* "universal", not the OS. WP 10 and W10 are very different .. .
  • Seriously why would anyone be even the slightest surprised for this?
  • It is natural for phones to be second. They need the os code for the desktop to be near final first before they can tweak it for phones. If we think about it, tech preview for phones was more on the UI and the design . They want to know how people would think of the continuum for phones - what people think if the buttons were placed here or there etc. Now people expressed what they voted for and windows 10 for desktop is final, then it's time to merge the programming and the design and the ui behavior. :)
  • There are two OSes, not one ;)
    Runtime is shared, not the lower level OS code.
  • Nooooooo
  • Nøøøøø ... Need a high end phone with continuum right now.
  • That's a relief. I like the way the phone UI looks, but I was worried they wouldn't have enough time. This makes a lot of sense though.  
  • Yeah. MS needs to nail it this time with Win10 on phones, and they won't do that by rushing to market.
  • W10 on phones is not going to be anything special. The key goal is to make everything that works now, work on 10. Its a full reboot like the transition from 7 to 8. Sure, there will be changes, but do not expect some herculean effort or innovation. It will be about basic function. Universal apps will be in its infancy. I believe it will be the most challenging time for the platform as most of the hold-outs will be disappointed.
  • Oh, yeah, I don't have high hopes for Win10M, but at the same time I'd like to think it won't come out half cooked :)
  • Cue the complaints...
  • We knew this would happen.
  • Verge reported w10 for phones release only after October...need no hurry we want a fully finished os without any errors
  • Exactly. In the meantime I'm perfectly happy with 8.1.
  • Yep. Not tired of 8.1 just yet :)
  • If that's the case, plenty of time to save up for a flagship :P.
  • If this means a smooth and polished experience that resembles Windows Phone in the present, then go for it Microsoft.
  • Exactly
  • Still very dumb. Fo real.
  • Nailed it again! Lol.
  • You sound like one of those crazy conspiracy theory people. Universal app "myth"? I feel stupid just rewriting what you said.
  • Man go somewhere else with that..
  • @wpkevin, think it is time detox off that moonshine :P.
  • I'm aware of the app gap and even with that and other things, I'm happy with Windows Phone.
  • So how would you like to see the mobile OS transform then? For me their strategy, although not beautifully unique experience of the past, still is the best chance to turn around it's luck.
  • "Zune Day"? You are reading too much into this. If Microsoft frustrates you, go somewhere else; there are plenty more fish in the sea. I'd hate it if I was committed to just one OS. Mobile software will only get better as technology moves forward.
  • Wpkevin, you have issues. Seriously, let it go. They call I a universal platform. Everyone but you understands what that means. That's what they call it. That's what they'll continue to call it and no amount of your insane rants will change it.
  • Did anyone ask about Microsoft Pay? Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Good question.
  • Indeed it is, there is another day of build left soo who knows.
  • So wish I could fast forward to this time next year to see where we are at. . . So many exciting things coming!
  • Literally daydreamed about that exact scenario. Maybe 30 seconds before reading your comment
  • Thank god someone is finally confident that windows 10 won't be a failure!
  • It must not be a failure else I will be stuck with Apple forever.
  • A new troll born every minute
  • This ^^
  • He must be DJCBS's offspring.
  • @RyanAMG, lol.
  • Palm and Blackberry don't have the millions Windows PC users that will run Windows 10.
  • Nah this is just the same moron that runs around on some of these threads. Nothing new with this one. It claims to prefer Windows Phone but is always spewing crap about how Microsoft's strategy is making it fail or that's it's two different operating systems or some worthless crap like that.
  • No. They always said, that it will be one OS but different SKUs. The only one who fails here is you because you failed to understand that.
  • The article's reasoning trumps your reasoning 10 times over, just saying. (Pun on "10" completely intended)
  • Dude give it a fucking rest. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • You're getting hung up on symantics. Of course its not the exact same OS. There is different hardware and not 100% overlap of function. It is one OS in the sense that you can dock your phone and it becomes like an RT desktop - mobile universal apps morph into the desktop versions of those apps. Obviously, a desktop version of this OS doesnt need this complex capability since it wont be installed on a phone. There's more going on in the Phone version and it has to fit into tighter storage and run on different hardware (ARM). Its going to take a bit more work.
  • The effort and the potential behind Windows 10 says it must not fail!
  • Don't actually mind since dev preview but then we won't see flagships or new phones till then......it could be next year for rtm .....
  • i can say that i don't even consider another way.
  • Makes sense in my books. I have no problem waiting. This time it isn't waiting for something we really don't know what it will be. This time we know it will rock and if my PC and tablet rock a few months before my (hopefully new dual LTE Sim flagship) phone does, so be it.
  • I have a question. Why didn't they show off feature for windows phone during the keynotes? They only showed desktop universal apps stuff and not phones. Are they planning on talking about that at a later conference or did I miss it?
  • They did not talked anything about phones :$
  • They showed continuum on phones, android and iOS apps conversion to Windows apps. I guess that is enough for phones at this development stage ;)
  • And confirmed the 4 tiles in a row!
  • Ooh, was that in the key note or one of the following sessions?
  • Non! It was while showing of the trip(travel and hotel) app!!
  • It also likely means we will not see any new high end Lumina phones anytime soon. Sigh.........
  • No phones , no universal apps. Apple and Google bread n butter dependent on portable devices, more or less smartphone phones. No WP, no moving forward. No compelling device, no sale, devs upset and leave wp equals failure. And these wc/wp fan boys jolly for nothing! Don't think apps alone gonna cut It and
    India ain't gonna bail WP out.
  • o.O what the f*ck did I just read? That crap makes no sense dude.
  • Read It again.
  • @lubbalots, err..... what....? O.o