What you need to know
- Windows 11 is going to get regular feature updates going forward.
- These features can arrive whenever they are ready, outside of major OS releases.
- It starts today with the introduction of new Taskbar features and Android app support.
Microsoft has today announced that it intends to begin shipping new Windows 11 features to users on a much more regular basis as it commits to feature drops similar to the one that just began rolling out today. No longer will new features be tied to major OS releases, instead shipping as smaller cumulative style updates via Windows Update at any given time once Microsoft deems a feature ready for prime time.
The announcement was made by Chief Product Officer Panos Panay, who said:
As today's release shows, we're committed to delivering experiences into Windows 11 that enrich and inspire people's lives. Overtime, you'll see us release new features into Windows 11 for end users more frequently in addition to our annual update. We will leverage the variety of update mechanisms we have in place including servicing and Microsoft Store updates. Our goal is to deliver continuous innovation, providing you with the best experiences year-round.
This is a huge shift for Windows, though one that has been in the works for some time. Microsoft had tested the waters with shipping new features outside of major updates last year with the introduction of the "News and interests" Taskbar feature on Windows 10. Now, Microsoft is ready to make these feature drops an official, regular thing.
This means that features that show up in the Windows Insider Dev or Beta Channels could begin shipping on Windows 11 at any time. Once Microsoft gathers enough feedback and ensures the feature is stable, it can prepare it for release in just a few months, rather than waiting an entire year for the next major OS release.
On that subject, Microsoft is still committing to one major feature update a year. The next one is currently in development and is scheduled to begin rolling out sometime in the second half of this year. Some features will be saved for the major releases, but many of them can now roll out on the existing shipping version if Microsoft see's fit.
So, even though Microsoft scaled back its OS releases to one a year with the launch of Windows 11, it is looking like users are going to be getting more features quicker overall. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Only time will tell. For now, the first Windows 11 feature drop is rolling out now, and it includes improvements to the Taskbar and the introduction of Android app support.