Microsoft is changing the way it updates Windows – and it’s starting to sound like Windows 12 won’t happen

Windows 12 may not be happening after all, or at least that seems to be the way the rumor mill is suddenly tilting – and Microsoft is also changing how it’ll update its desktop OS in the future, we’re told.

This fresh info comes from Zac Bowden of Windows Central, a well-known leaker on all things Microsoft.

Bowden tells us that the next version of Windows (codenamed Hudson Valley) will be highly AI-focused (quelle surprise) and Microsoft is planning to launch it in September or October 2024 – but the final name is a marketing decision that hasn’t yet been made.

However, the leaker claims that sources inside Microsoft are doubtful as to whether it’ll be Windows 12. The reason? Microsoft is apparently wary of fragmenting the user base further with another release that has a different name – and we totally get where that line of thought is coming from (we’ll return to discuss that shortly).

This doesn’t rule out Windows 12, of course, but it certainly sounds like Microsoft is edging towards sticking with another release of Windows 11 for the next incarnation.

Bowden also chews over purported changes to the way Windows updates are delivered, and sources inside Microsoft have indicated that there’ll be a return to a big annual feature update – with fewer ‘Moment’ (smaller) feature updates.

Currently, we’re getting a raft of Moment updates – we’re up to Moment 4 this year, with a fifth planned for February or March next year – and an annual upgrade (23H2 this year) which was somewhat smaller in terms of its feature count (as lots of features had been introduced with those Moment updates already).

Next year, with fewer Moment updates – we’re told these will still exist, but will be used “sparingly” – the big upgrade for later in 2024 (Hudson Valley) will be a chunkier affair. In short, Microsoft is putting more emphasis on the major annual update going forward, or that’s the theory.

Analysis: Two buckets are better than three

So, if Microsoft goes the route of making Hudson Valley an all-new release called Windows 12 (or another alternative – Windows AI, maybe), what’s the danger of fragmentation referred to here?

Well, if Windows 12 came out next year, we’d have a bunch of folks leaping to that OS, a bunch still on Windows 11, and a whole load of users still running Windows 10 (stuck behind a hardware upgrade barrier in many cases – either because they don’t have TPM functionality on their PC, or their CPU is too old).

This would be diluting the user base over three buckets instead of two, if you will, which does feel like a clumsy approach, and servicing all this will end up a clunkier, harder-to-manage process, too.

Funnily enough, we just saw a leak suggesting Windows 11 24H2 is incoming, which is what the name of Hudson Valley will doubtless be if Microsoft sticks with Windows 11 – so this lends a bit more weight to the speculation here.

Again, this doesn’t rule out Windows 12, of course – but it is starting to feel somewhat less likely.

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Microsoft is finally changing this annoying Windows 11 behavior – but there’s a catch

Windows 11 has a change in testing which will please anyone who is fed up with Edge popping up when opening certain links in the OS, despite it not being the default browser – but there’s a catch, sadly.

You’re surely familiar with the scenario where you open a link via a Windows system component – meaning in a Windows 11 menu somewhere, maybe a help link for example – and it fires up Edge, rather than your chosen favorite web browser.

There’s no way to modify that preference either, but in preview build 23531 which was released at the end of last week in the Dev testing channel, Microsoft has changed it so these system components use your default browser, as they should.

As the blog post for build 23531 makes clear: “In the European Economic Area (EEA), Windows system components use the default browser to open links.”

And in that sentence, you can spot the catch: for now this is just in European countries (specifically the EEA), so it’s not happening in the US or elsewhere.

Analysis: Come on Microsoft, push this out globally

Hopefully this feature will witness a wider regional rollout in time – it’s a small tweak to make, and one that’ll definitely lower the annoyance factor when using Windows 11.

Okay, so it isn’t that often that you click one of these system links, but when Edge pops up unannounced, it can be quite annoying. Especially as it inevitably also throws some kind of banner into the mix upon being opened for the first time in a while (“hey, don’t forget about me, make me your default browser, go on, you know you want to,” and so forth).

Is there a reason Microsoft may have been forced to do this in Europe, pertaining to regulations or compliance issues? We’re not sure, but the chatter on the rumor mill seems convinced enough this is something Microsoft is only doing to head off the danger of being penalized by the EU in some way. It does seem strange that the change is Europe-only, after all.

That said, if the feedback is positive enough, maybe the software giant will listen, and roll out this change more widely anyway, even if this somehow a forced move in Europe.

Elsewhere in build 23531, Microsoft has reinstated the search flyout when you mouse over the search box in the taskbar – not something everyone will appreciate. The good news is that you can turn off this function if you find it irritating.

As ever with test builds of Windows 11, there’s no guarantee that the features being tried out in earlier previews will make the cut for the final version of the OS.

Via Windows Central

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Microsoft is changing Windows 11 to help you save money on power bills

Windows 11 has received another preview build in the Dev channel, and it brings in a number of tweaks and additions, including beefing up a feature that should help your PC use a bit less electricity.

That would be Content Adaptive Brightness Control (CABC), which as of preview build 23424, works not just with laptops on battery power, but when they’re plugged in – and indeed with desktop PCs too.

What CABC does is intelligently dim (or lighten) certain parts of the screen depending on what content is being displayed, the idea being that it can cut back power usage without hampering the ‘visual experience’.

In other words, the tweaking on the dimming front shouldn’t make any noticeable difference to the image you’re looking at on-screen, and it should save you a bit of power (and therefore cash, over time).

The feature can be set to be always on, or it can be disabled, or alternatively you can choose to have CABC kick in only if you’re on battery power (on a laptop of course).

Windows 11 Adaptive Brightness now works with desktop PCs

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What else is new for build 23424? There’s a new widget board which is now bigger, so it’s three columns wide (rather than two) and much roomier (assuming the device’s screen has enough real-estate to cope).

Along with this, there’s the usual gamut of fixes and minor tweaks, all of which are detailed in the usual blog post published with every preview build.

Notable pieces of minor tinkering include improving the speed of running searches within the Settings panel, and a change to produce better performance when playing games with a high polling mouse (a super-precise fancy gaming mouse, basically).

Analysis: Small savings that could add up (we hope)

Bringing adaptive brightness control to a desktop PC might sound a bit daft, considering it’s really more a battery-saving feature for laptops. But if like us, you have your PC turned on for about 60 or 70 hours a week, tiny little power savings will add up across the year – especially with energy pricing being what it is these days (sky-high where we are).

So, this is a useful addition we think, providing that as Microsoft asserts, there’s no noticeable hampering of the quality of the monitor image when the feature is turned on. Of course, you don’t have to switch it on if you don’t want to.

Microsoft’s work with widgets seems to be progressing at a speedy pace, too. The more expansive widget board was previously seen in limited testing in the Canary channel, which is the earliest test channel, just a week ago. Now it’s already in the Dev channel and more widely rolled out.

There are other widget-related changes theoretically in the pipeline that we might see soon, too. That includes Microsoft’s experiments with animated icons for widgets (which we have to say look quite nifty), and the rumored possibility has been floated that users may eventually be allowed to drop widgets onto the desktop. It seems fairly clear that widgets are quite a big thing for Microsoft, so expect to see more of them in Windows 11 down the line.

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