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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Want Windows on your iPhone? Microsoft’s made it happen anyway with its new app

You can now get Windows on your Apple iPhone, iPad, or Mac – sort of – with Microsoft’s latest innovation for its operating system, although this currently comes with a sizable catch (more on that later).

Of course, we’re not talking about a full-blown installation of the desktop OS, but rather, the new Windows App from Microsoft.

The application allows you to stream a Windows 11 desktop from a remote PC to your Apple device (or indeed another Windows device, or anything with a browser). Or alternatively you can stream a Windows 365 instance, or other options like Azure Virtual Desktop.

The Windows App is essentially a hub to facilitate streaming whichever instances you want to a given device. It packs support for multi-monitor setups, and device redirection to allow for the use of connected hardware like printers, webcams, speakers and so on hooked up to the device that the app is running on.

The Windows App is currently in preview – so expect potential flakiness – and available for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and Windows itself. Those streaming a Windows desktop instance via a web browser don’t have to install any software at all.

Analysis: A business move, but that could change

Windows App

(Image credit: Microsoft)

So, that catch we mentioned: as well as it being a beta, the Windows App only works for Microsoft business accounts, not personal accounts – yet. 

But as The Verge, which picked up on the app’s release, points out, the login on the Windows version of the Windows app seemingly has an option to use a personal Microsoft account, it just doesn’t work yet.

That’s not exactly surprising as this is a beta, which is the other caveat here – not everything will necessarily work properly yet. This is a more than a hopeful suggestion that consumers will be able to use the app and stream a remote PC to their Apple (or other) device eventually, come release.

Of course, another omission here is the lack of Android support, and presumably that’s something else that will be in the pipeline.

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Adobe makes Express and Firefly for Enterprise happen

Adobe Express has been getting a lot of attention from the creative apps maker lately – yesterday we revealed that the new Express beta features Firefly integration. But that’s not the whole story.

Announced at Adobe Summit 2023 in London, the easy-to-use graphic design software and its freshly built-in AI art generator is now available to enterprise customers. 

According to the company, “every employee across an organization, at any creative skill level, to use Firefly to generate beautiful, on-brand, ready-to-share content.” And that’s not the only new business features found in the new-look Adobe Express. 

Creating and collaborating

Adobe Express occupies an interesting space in the firm’s creative stack. While drawing on the powerful tools found in Adobe’s professional digital art software, Express lets anyone create and edit designs that fit the brand. It also means design teams don’t have to get involved in making minor tweaks. Less complex than Photoshop and Illustrator, it’s designed for high-quality, high-velocity content production. Think social media ads, blog graphics, online brand promos.  

It’s long been a popular tool for content creators and marketers – and its new iteration feels as much a show of faith in the product as it is an attempt to edge out Canva, which harbors similar designs on enterprise customers. But with companies of all sizes looking at how gen AI can help increase efficiencies, the Firefly integration – which can be accessed through the standalone app, Adobe Express, and Creative Cloud – could turn many a business head.

 Chiefly because Firefly for Enterprise is designed to be what Adobe calls “commercially safe”. In other words, it’s been trained on copyright-free imagery. With Content Credentials, Firefly also automatically tags images to let consumers know generative AI was used in its creation. It can add other information, too, like an artist's name, date, and even the tools used to create the image. On that note, we absolutely used Firefly in Express to create the artwork accompanying this article.

The company also intends to introduce IP indemnity for enterprise customers, footing the legal bill (or some of it, at least) should a copyright claim arise.  

Elsewhere, users will find a raft of new tools and features across Adobe Express. This includes deeper integration with Adobe apps including Photoshop and Experience Manager, an expanded library of stock photos and stock videos, and new animations for assets powered by Adobe Character Animator. There’s even increased PDF editor support, simplifying the import and editing process. 

With an eye to the future, Adobe also said it’s working on letting businesses train Firefly with their own branded assets, to generate brand-specific content. There’s no word on when to expect this option, but it could prove to be a game-changer for commercial graphic design. 

The latest version of the Adobe Express beta is available now on desktop, although a mobile version is on its way. 

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