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Modern desktop servicing: the year in review

2018 was a pivotal year for the modern desktop and the servicing transformation journey we have been taking with you and your organization. With that in mind, I thought it would be good to look back and recap the progress that has been made, highlight significant events, and provide insight into what 2019 has in store.

If 2017 was the year consumers made the move to Windows 10, 2018 was the year commercial customers really began that transition in earnest. Based on the conversations we saw in community forums, on social media, and at events, Windows 10 and Office 365 servicing was certainly top of mind for many of you this past year. I would like to thank each of you for the opportunities we had to discuss digital transformation with Windows 10 and Office servicing. It was great to witness and experience the interest and enthusiasm, and to listen to your feedback, suggestions, and asks. I learn more each time I have an opportunity to talk directly with you, and it’s the best part of my job.

Between Microsoft Inspire and Microsoft Ignite, we had 11 sessions related to Windows as a service, each attended by 500-2,500 attendees. That was in addition to the 140 days I spent on the road, meeting with nearly 1,000 customers and partners to talk about Windows 10 and the change management process it enables. To all of those I had the chance to encounter, thank you for your time, the great questions, and suggestions.

Product progress

Since Windows 10 first shipped, and the Windows as a service model was introduced, we have heard you talk about three common concerns: application compatibility, end user interruption, and network bandwidth impact. I’m happy to report that, in 2018, we made significant progress in addressing each of these concerns.

Concern #1: Application compatibility

Based on experiences with previous Windows upgrades (e.g. Windows XP to Windows 7), and with the associated application platform and API changes as well as UI and interaction model changes, application compatibility was a top of mind concern for many of you, and a rational one at that.

With Windows 10, we focused on application compatibility as a top priority from day one, and we are seeing that in practice today with 99% of applications just working—not only when moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10, but also with our twice-yearly Windows 10 feature updates. I continue to get asked about and hear concerns about app compat, but almost never do I actually hear of actual blockers, other than third-party security products that have not adhered to publicly supported APIs. 

In 2018, we took this dedication to application compatibility one step further with the new Desktop App Assure program. For the rare instance where you encounter an application compatibility issue with an update, Microsoft is now offering you assistance to resolve the issue at no cost.

Concern #2: End user interruption

The more frequent servicing cadence for Windows 10 allows us to ship improvements and innovation more quickly in response to user feedback and requests. Improvements not only include new end-user capabilities, stability, and security, but improvements to the update technology itself, both in terms of size and speed.

With the first releases of Windows 10, feature updates could take up to two hours to complete, during which time the device was not available to the user. With each subsequent release, we worked to improve the update technology and performance, and ultimately reduce this interruption. Earlier this year, with Windows 10, version 1803, we delivered improvements up to 63%, with an average offline time of only 30 minutes for all devices, and less than 15 minutes for SSD-equipped devices.

Fun Fact: Our telemetry shows a U.S.-based PC updated from Windows 10, version 1709 (i.e. the Fall Creators Update) to Windows 10, version 1803 (i.e. the April 2018 Update) in just over three minutes!

The update experience for a device is based on the release currently on the device, not the release it is targeting with the update. As a result, the statistics I mentioned above are based on moving from version 1709 to version 1803. The update experience will continue to get faster as you move from version 1803 to version 1809. If you are still on an older version, you will need to complete a longer update, and, thus, more time will be required. From there; however, you should see this level of performance and experience. For more details, see We’re listening to you — feature update improvements.

Concern #3: Network bandwidth impact

The third concern with regards to Windows and Office servicing was bandwidth consumption and update package sizes. Here again, we have delivered substantial improvements.

The monthly cumulative updates are typically 1.2 GB in size. If a device is serviced each month, most of the cumulative update is already on the device and, thus, is not needed or used. Windows 10 has built-in functionality to optimize the download to get just the newest bits specifically needed by a given device. This is known as Express Updates.

Express Updates, which have been supported in System Center Configuration Manager since version 1703, can substantially reduce monthly bandwidth usage, anywhere from 120 MB to 1.2 GB per device.

monthly-update-size-options.png
Figure 1. Monthly update size options

By enabling and using Delivery Optimization, the effective size of monthly updates is reduced even further to only 40 MB per device, or the equivalent of about 20 minutes' worth of my email volume! Not only does it reduce the network load for Windows 10 updates, it can also be used to reduce bandwidth consumption for Office and Microsoft Store updates as well.

You can use Windows Analytics Update Compliance to help your organization measure where you’re at, and fine tune to maximize the savings. For more information on this, see Measuring Delivery Optimization and its impact to your network.

For Windows 10 feature updates, when using the servicing update method, the update size has been reduced to around 1.8 GB in size, yet another reason why I encourage your organization to transition to servicing updates, which you can configure in Configuration Manager.

Looking ahead to 2019

For most of you, 2019 will continue the digital transformation journey you have already started, as you move from project to process and migrate to a servicing approach based on diagnostic data and analytics. By giving you new insights and visibility into the experience and devices of end users, we hope to help you be more proactive, delivering better services and focusing your investments.

For some of you, January 14th, 2020 is just around the corner, and 2019 will be the year to finally say good bye to Windows 7. In either case, we will continue to invest in improving Windows 10 and Office as well as the tools, documentation, and programs that support them. We look forward to supporting and working with you, and our partner ecosystem, to help your organization move forward.

Looking to learn more about Windows as a service and stay apprised of the latest news around servicing and delivery? Be sure to check out our newly revamped Windows as a service gateway page on docs.microsoft.com. Also, be sure to check out our new Microsoft 365 Modern Desktop podcast, which can be found here.

  


Continue the conversation. Find best practices. Bookmark the Windows 10 Tech Community.

Looking for support? Visit the Windows 10 IT pro forums.

3 Comments
Occasional Contributor
You ignored the #1 concern - update stability. Every single feature release has had significant issues. Every. Single. One. v1809 the worst of them, of course. So do most monthly so-called Quality Updates. So-called. When will you fix your crappy patches?
Super Contributor

Two updates per year is too often for SMBs with 1-2 IT staff. But if we skip, then it will take much longer to update later. Switching to just one feature update per year might be reasonable (i think it still should be faster than installing with skipped SAC version).

Occasional Contributor

Express updates are all well and good, but why is it that Server 2016 has what seems like a unanimous reputation for being deathly slow--far beyond what can be accounted for by download time--when it comes to Windows Update? There are some epic threads out there on this. It's not been addressed.