Windows Platform Roadmap for 2024: Microsoft's plans for the coming year

Windows[German]After Microsoft recently announced a three-year ESU support extension for the end of 2025 and it is also clear that there will be both a Windows 11 24H2 and a successor (I have labeled this Windows 12) in 2024, additional information is now available. Zack Bowden gives some more concrete dates for release dates and content, which he claims to have received from Microsoft sources and from a "Windows Platform Roadmap 2024".


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There have been repeated indications for some time that Microsoft is working on a Windows 11 successor – often referred to as Windows 12 (see links at the end of the article). I last reported on corresponding indications in the article Windows 11 24H2 and "Windows 12" are proably scheduled for release in 2024. These rumors were based on statements made by Quanta Chairman Lin Baili and Acer Chairman and CEO Chen Junsheng at the recent Medical Technology Exhibition in Taiwan. Both spoke of "Windows 12 PCs" being available in summer 2024.

However, after the departure of "Windows boss" Panos Panay (see Abgang bei Microsoft: Panos Panay geht zu Amazon), it was unclear what would happen to Windows development and what would happen next. Will the approach of launching a new major version of Windows every three years remain? Will Microsoft continue to work with the so-called Moments updates, which are released to the user community in the meantime?

Windows Roadmap 2024

The new leadership of Microsoft's new Windows & Web Experiences team seems to have developed a roadmap for Windows development in 2024. Zack Bowden must have had some conversations with his sources at Microsoft and outlines a "Windows Platform Roadmap 2024" in his Windows Central post EXCLUSIVE: Microsoft readies 'groundbreaking' AI-focused Windows release as new leadership takes the helm. I have extracted the most important key points of his statements, which he bases on sources at Microsoft.

Return to annual updates

Under Panos Panay, the goal was to release a major version of Windows every three years. In the meantime, feature drops were to be rolled out to users every few months. Internally, these are referred to as "Moment" updates. However, according to my observations, this did not work out so well. The developers were under deadline stress and the users were frustrated by bugs, features that had been are announced are not rolled out, etc.


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Zack Bowden writes that the new management of the development team now wants to turn things around. The new Windows bosses are now planning to return to an annual release cycle for the major versions of the Windows platform. This would mean that we will see a Windows 11 24H2 in 2024, which I expect to be released in the fall of 2024. So there will only be one major feature update for Windows per year instead of several smaller updates.

Bowden says that Microsoft may still use moments updates sparingly. But this is no longer the main goal for rolling out new features to users. According to Bowden, these changes will come into effect after the launch of Hudson Valley in 2024. He expects that there will be at least one more Moments update for Windows 11 23H2, which according to his sources will be released in February or March 2024.

Windows "Hudson Valley" (Germanium)

In 2024, a new version of Windows – I had previously referred to it as Windows 12, but what exactly it will be called is currently unclear. Microsoft refers to the project internally as "Hudson Valley" and development of the Germanium branch is currently underway. In his article, Bowden outlines a roadmap for "Hudson Valley", the upcoming version of Windows.

  • The "Hudson Valley" branch currently under development bears the code name "Germanium" and is expected to reach "RTM" status as early as April 2024. This version is to be delivered to OEM manufacturers, who are to provide new Windows PCs for summer 2024.
  • However, the new Windows (Hudson Valley) is not due to be completed in development as an update until August 2024. Delivery is planned for September/October 2024 for existing PCs.

Microsoft intends to continue working on Hudson Valley over the summer of 2024, according to Bowden, as many functions are being developed independently of the platform. He has also been told by sources that OEMs will start shipping new Arm hardware with pre-installed Germanium as early as June 2024.

However, AMD will probably not be able to support Microsoft's plans for an AI-based Windows based on Ryzen 8040, 8050 CPUs, as I just read at neowin.net.

Some confusion is therefore already foreseeable, because according to Bowden, the new PCs for the upcoming AI Windows (possibly Windows 12) will be delivered with a Germanium Windows version that simply cannot use the possibilities of Hudson Valley. Only when the Hudson Valley update is released will the expected features be available to everyone.

The new Windows PCs delivered with the Germanium RTM from summer 2024 will receive the Hudson Valley version as the last cumulative update. Systems with the then current version of Windows 11 can also be updated to Hudson Valley as an "operating system upgrade" (this would be the equivalent of switching from Windows 10 to Windows 11). Interesting for me: Microsoft is therefore planning an upgrade path for old Windows 11 systems that are not yet equipped with AI chips or processors.

"Hudson Valley" Features

The exciting question is what will be new in the upcoming Windows, referred to as "Hudson Valley". It is clear that this Windows will be very strongly characterized by AI functions (keyword Copilot). According to Bowden and other sources, "next-generation" AI functions will be very strongly interwoven with the operating system, which will probably require new NPU hardware (AI chips). However, this is contradicted by the fact that Microsoft also wants to offer "Hudson Valley" as an upgrade for existing Windows 11 systems.

According to Bowden's sources, the introduction of an AI-powered Windows Shell is groundbreaking. The new feature will be enhanced with an advanced co-pilot that works constantly in the background to improve search, start projects or workflows, understand context and more. The developers are also working on a new function for a history/timeline. Users will be able to scroll back in time to see all the apps and websites Copilot remembers and filter based on a user's specific search criteria.

The latter reminds me of the Timeline from Windows 10, which never worked and was then quietly buried by Microsoft. Going by the praise that Bowden's sources sing, AI will improve search in Windows by using natural language to find things that users have previously opened or seen on their PC. If you can't remember the name or content of a document, the search term "Find the document Bob sent me on WhatsApp a few days ago" is something Windows Search will actually understand, they say.

Personally, I take a very sober view: Windows Search is the function that Microsoft has never managed to get right for decades. People turn to third-party tools when they want to search for specific files or other content. Furthermore, Microsoft's source whispers that the new AI functions include the so-called Super Resolution. This requires NPU hardware to improve the quality of videos and games. An improved version of Live Captions is also in the works, which will be able to translate a range of texts.

Microsoft is also working on "AI"-driven wallpapers that use machine learning to recognize layers in each image and create a slight parallax effect that interacts with the mouse pointer or built-in gyroscope when using a handheld device, Bowden writes. With AI, Microsoft wants to add a separate "Creator" section to the Start menu and File Explorer. All Microsoft services that allow users to create things would be brought together in one place. This area should essentially act as a launch pad for Microsoft 365 and provide shortcuts for starting a new or existing designer project, Word document, PowerPoint presentation, etc.

An improved energy-saving mode is also mentioned, which is supposed to extend the battery life by up to 50% with certain hardware. This really makes me dizzy, I've been hearing about such improvements for what feels like 20 years – and I was actually beginning to expect that a notebook could be charged once from the factory and then run for the next five years with this available energy. Instead, the mobile device batteries are drained within a few hours.

Bowden also says that a new "green power" function is in the works. This attempts to charge a device when Windows recognizes that the power it draws from the socket is renewable. I think this is "ambitious" because it would require an energy management system that receives this information from the electricity network. Nowadays, this is usually regulated via radio-controlled sockets that can be controlled by a solar manager. I also think the statement about the "green electricity" feature is pure greenwashing – the AI features consume so much energy that "green electricity for battery charging" is no longer really important.

Microsoft is also said to be working on a new desktop interface for Hudson Valley. Everything is currently still experimental and will not be available in 2024. However, elements of the taskbar such as the system tray could then be placed at the top of the screen. However, this is very nebulous and all of Microsoft's plans could still change before the release.

Will it be named Windows 12?

The question remains as to whether the Windows 11 successor will now be called "Windows 12". Bowden writes that Microsoft has "grown tired" of constantly releasing new versions of Windows, which then lead to "fragmentation". Of the current 1.4 billion users, only around 400 million have switched to Windows 11. The majority remain on Windows 10 and are also unable to switch because of their hardware. Therefore, the new AI Windows might not necessarily see the light of day as "Windows 12". Microsoft marketing will come up with creative ideas here, I'm sure of it.

In the article, Zack Bowden briefly discusses the Core PC in this overall picture. Everything Bowden outlines fits into the puzzle that we have been able to piece together from previous Microsoft announcements. We'll have to wait and see what comes next – but 2024 will be exciting in terms of new announcements.

My 2 Cents

My final thoughts: Microsoft is taking a risky bet with this development that AI functions really are the future. When I currently look at what an operating system has to do for me, I don't need the modern AI stuff – I want a lean and secure platform that just does and is used to launch applications. The search should find the information I want quickly and precisely and not deliver nonsensical suggestions to the web. Above all, I want consistency and not constant improvements with visual gimmicks on the user interface.

The Windows development has been somehow "head-driven" for years, focused on "white collar workers" and social media junkies, but no longer takes into account what billions of users in companies need for their daily work. A craftsman who uses his PC to do bookkeeping and create invoices, quotes etc. doesn't need image and video enhancements or an AI that spams his documents. A doctor will spend the entire day with his practice software. The examples go on and on – the "gimmicks" that Microsoft presents to its users are probably only going to knock the socks off IT fans, but in my opinion they don't justify the effort that Microsoft is putting in. Not to mention questions of functionality, freedom from errors, security, GDPR compliance, etc.

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Windows 11 24H2 and "Windows 12" are proably scheduled for release in 2024

 

Windows as a service: Future feature updates only every 3 years?
Windows 10: Is Microsoft planning yearly feature updates?
Windows 11 22H2: "Continous innovation delivery" will be shipped in March 2023


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