Microsoft this month released a Windows 11 version 22H2 quality "optional update" that is kicking off a relatively new features delivery approach via the Windows Update service.
The optional update, which can be triggered using Windows 11’s "check for updates" capability, will deliver new operating system and in-box application features to consumer users, as described in a Tuesday Microsoft announcement. Organizations that manage Windows 11 clients have so-called "commercial control" over such updates, which means that the delivery of these new features is turned off by default, but just for "disruptive" changes.
The optional update is currently available as a preview, but it will get commercially released to the bulk of consumer Windows 11 version 22H2 users on March 14, which is Microsoft’s "update Tuesday" date for releasing quality and security patches. Update Tuesdays, which occur on the second Tuesdays of each month, are now going to be delivery dates for new features for consumer Windows 11 users, which represents a relatively new servicing change by Microsoft.
New Windows 11 version 22H2 Features Coming March 14
The new features, available now as a preview, or coming on March 14 to unmanaged Windows 11 version 22H2 devices, will be adding the following capabilities:
Greater detail on these new Windows 11 version 22H2 features was elucidated in this Tuesday announcement by Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer. He described the addition of a typable artificial-intelligence (AI) Bing search box on the Taskbar as well. Also, Microsoft is previewing a Windows 11 Phone Link for iOS devices, which alerts users to phone calls via Windows notifications. This update also is bringing iCloud integration to access iPhone photos using the Photos app.
The Start Menu is getting an enhancement to recommend content for users based on AI, but this capability is only coming to users with "Windows 11 Pro devices and higher that are Azure Active Directory (AAD) joined."
The Quick Assist app, which permits screen sharing with another person for technical fixes, will be launchable from the Start Menu. Quick Assist users will be able to adjust the access permissions that are granted. It also includes a "laser pointer" for better interactions.
The Notepad in-box app is getting tabs. Panay also said that voice commands on Windows 11 is coming "out of preview" for Microsoft apps, including Word and File Explorer. Microsoft also added Braille support for "Designed for Surface displays from HumanWare." A new Windows 365 app, available from the Microsoft Store, provides easy access to Cloud PCs.
The update will open up the Widgets section of Windows 11 to other things besides the weather. It can also include content for "Phone Link, Xbox Game Pass, and partners like Meta and Spotify," Panay indicated.
For two-in-one Windows 11 laptops with removable touch screens that can convert into a tablet, the toolbar will "collapse" when the screen is removed, giving users more space.
New Features Servicing Change
Typically, new Windows 10 and Windows 11 features arrive just once per year, in the fall, and are called "feature updates." Microsoft also typically releases monthly quality and security updates, which are called the "latest cumulative updates" (LCU). LCUs previously did not introduce new features, but that approach is now changing for Windows 11 users.
Microsoft’s latest approach is to deliver new Windows 11 features via monthly LCUs when they are ready. These new features get delivered to users via the Windows Update service, which used to be more of a patch delivery mechanism. Possibly the new monthly feature releases are called "moments" releases internally by Microsoft. Some press accounts refer to them as moments releases, although Microsoft doesn’t appear to use any term for them in its announcements.
Microsoft actually started this new feature-delivery approach for Windows 11 version 22H2 back in November. However, it promised earlier that organizations managing Windows 11 clients would have delivery of these new features turned off by default if the features were deemed to be disruptive. Disruptive new features are said to "add new experiences or user interfaces" or be completely new in-box applications. Microsoft also promised to block new features that may remove existing capabilities or override settings.
Organizations that manage Windows devices using Windows Update for Business or the Windows Server Update Service have commercial control over this new feature delivery approach. However, the Tuesday announcement suggested that some new features will still arrive, despite commercial control, stating that "not all features shipped via servicing will be behind this new control."
The Tuesday announcement promised that IT organizations would at some point get "new policies" for configuring these new LCU-delivered features in "a preferred way for your organization," although the announcement just listed one policy for configuring search on the Windows 11 toolbar.
The announcement incidentally noted that the new artificial intelligence powered Bing that will be previewing on Windows 11 version 22H2 systems "is not available to Azure AD and AD accounts at this time." Microsoft is still working out how to add it for commercial Windows users.
About the Author
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media’s Converge360 group.
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