One of the most talked-about updates released by Microsoft in 2021 was Windows 11, the successor to Windows 10. This could be said both for and against this new version of Windows. The Windows as a service model is constantly developing, and Microsoft has already begun development on Windows 12, the successor to Windows 11.
The Windows 11 release marks the beginning of Microsoft’s new engineering schedule for its flagship OS. Microsoft has reverted to a major operating system release every three years as part of the internal changes to Windows development, so we can expect a new Windows release once every three years or so.
This doesn’t imply that Microsoft will release a new version of Windows every three years like Windows 12, 13, or 14. There are a number of factors that determine whether or not an update to Windows 11 itself constitutes a new release. These include the update’s core development branch and the magnitude of the changes introduced.
As an illustration, Platform: Windows 11 Build 23H2, due out this season, is built on top of the already-existing 22H2 update and is not seen as a major internal release or milestone because of this. The next major update (possibly called Windows 12) is expected in 2024 and will include platform changes.
To get our test machines ready for the major Windows release, Microsoft has also announced changes to the Windows Insider Program. In a blog post Microsoft announced that it is refreshing the Insider program’s Dev Channel so that it can release features and updates further in advance.
There will soon be a “Canary channel” for testing future Windows releases like Windows 11 and Windows 12. Canary builds, much like Microsoft Edge updates, will be regularly released shortly after being cooked at the company’s headquarters, with minimal testing.
This also means that Microsoft may not detail all the modifications made to Canary updates, and that there may be significant bugs in these versions. Those who prefer a more stable experience should avoid the Dev channel because Microsoft has warned that in very unusual circumstances, users may need to reinstall their operating system.
“Canary Channel is ideal for highly technical users,” Microsoft said. Its purpose is to “preview the latest platform changes in the early development cycles,” and its audience consists of “enthusiasts” who aren’t afraid of a few kinks as they experiment with novel concepts and cutting-edge features.
While build 23xxx will be officially flighted in Dev, Microsoft plans to release build 25xxx as a preview in the Canary Channel. Since “Nickel” (Ni stands for 22H2) is the platform/development branch upon which Windows 11 23H2 is based, it follows that builds for the Dev Channel will come from “ni_prerelease” (Ni stands for 22H2).