Windows 11 24H2 update is rumored to be ready to go – but nobody will get any of its major new features anytime soon

Windows 11’s next big update just moved a step closer to fruition, perhaps, given a rumor that Microsoft has just pushed out a new preview update that represents the 24H2 release.

The 24H2 update is due later this year, most likely in September, but the twist is it’s expected to initially arrive – in a slightly different form for certain devices (we’ll come back to exactly what we mean here) – around the middle of 2024.

The preview version of Windows 11 we’re talking about is build 26100 and we’re told by reliable leaker Zac Bowden (of Windows Central) that this is the RTM build for the 24H2 update (which Bowden predicted would arrive in April).

RTM means 'release to manufacturing' and it translates, as the name suggests, to mean this is effectively a finished product – with caveats that we’ll come back to shortly – that Microsoft is sending out to PC manufacturers to put on their devices (and test before that hardware hits the shelves).

Some PC makers may have received this RTM build already, or they are about to. In short, this is a positive sign that Windows 11 24H2 is progressing on track with its purported release schedule as aired via the grapevine.

Analysis: A new two-tier update process from Microsoft

The mentioned caveat-laden twist is that this initial hardware in question is AI PCs with Snapdragon X Elite chips, which are based on ARM architecture (quite different to AMD or Intel x86 CPUs). Because these Snapdragon chips are different to the general norm they need the new Germanium platform that Windows 11 24H2 is built on to work, so Microsoft is technically deploying the new version of the OS with these AI PCs which are expected to debut in June.

However, that particular Windows 11 24H2 build won’t have any of the new features touted for the next big upgrade. It’s just going to be much the same as what we have now with Windows 11, just with that new underpinning Germanium platform for ARM-based chips.

Microsoft will finalize the fully fleshed out 24H2 update, with all its new features added on top, in July; or that’s the predicted timeframe by Bowden. And then after final testing, the full 24H2 update will roll out to everyone on Windows 11 in September. Including those Snapdragon X Elite PCs, of course, who won’t get all the new features until everyone else is receiving them.

Hopefully we’ve made that clear enough. But it’s true that this is all rather more complex and convoluted than the usual straightforward deployment of a Windows annual feature update.

The long and short of it is that things appear to be on track, but nobody will get the full Windows 11 24H2 update until September 2024 (or around then). And while new AI PC buyers this summer will get a Snapdragon-powered laptop with 24H2 on board, this will be just the skeleton of that version, as it were, and all the meat (new features) won’t be added until everyone else receives the update in September(ish).

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Apple is reportedly working on a ChatGPT rival – but you won’t see it anytime soon

Of course, Apple is working on its own generative AI, Large Language Model (LLM) and possible ChatGPT rival called, naturally, AppleGPT. Sure, the news is based on a Bloomberg report and Apple is predictably mum on the matter but, seriously, how could the Cupertino tech giant not be working on its own AI?

According to the Bloomberg report, Apple is basing its ultra-secret project on a learning framework known as Ajax, from rival and sometimes friend Google.

The effort to build some sort of chatbot and maybe other generative AI systems has been going on since late last year but, as someone who attended Apple's WWDC 2023 can tell you, Apple made no mention of chatbots of any kind at the June developer's conference.

Privacy roadblock

Apple's hyper-focus on user privacy has, as I see it, somewhat hamstrung its efforts to bring any kind of LLM-based chatbot to consumers. ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Microsoft Bing are all cloud-connected and send queries out to distant servers for rapid interpretation and response (based on the LLM's vast knowledge of how actual humans might respond under similar circumstances).

That, of course, is not the Apple way. Its Apple Silicon A16 Bionic's Neural Network is local. It does Machine Learning on your best iPhone. Sending queries with all those possibly personal details is anathema to Apple's privacy principles.

And yet, Apple clearly cannot afford to stay away from the siren call of generative AI. It is a revolution that is consuming the tech industry and the interests of average consumers and businesses. Even with the intense scrutiny AI development is under and the lawsuits some of it is facing, no one believes AI development is suddenly going to stop or go away. 

Apple has even gone as far as, according to Bloomberg, creating its own chatbot, or AppleGPT. But that's basically a highly limited and internal test and apparently not one that's ever headed to consumer desktops.

What about Siri?

Where does Siri sit in all this? 

Bloomberg claims that the Ajax work has already been used to improve Siri. That may be so, but the only Siri improvement we're getting with iOS 17 (currently in public beta) is the ability to stop starting each voice assistant prompt with “Hey.”

I have no doubt that Apple is hard at work figuring out its place in the LLM AI sphere, but it's also clear from the report that these are early days. There is no overarching strategy, and I doubt the existential question of whether or not Siri could ever host AppleGPT (or whatever it's called) has been answered.

Ultimately, this is confirmation that Apple is just as aware of what's going on around it and with competitors as ever. It will sample and test, develop and test, scrap and develop, and then test some more. I don't expect Apple to tell us anything about this during the expected September launch of the iPhone 15. However, by the time WWDC 2024 rolls around, Apple might be ready to unveil a new platform. Maybe it'll be AppleGPT-kit, AppleLLM-Kit, or even AppleGPT. 

This assumes that Apple can solve its big privacy question. If not, AppleGPT could remain in Skunkworks indefinitely.

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