Microsoft stops with CB/CBB and moves forward with semi-annual channel (SAC), impacting businesses.

Playing a game is fun but not when someone changes the rules while playing it. Microsoft did just that, they changed the way Windows 10 is released and it will impact the Annualgame hugely. Until now Microsoft had a release schedule with branches where they would go through a Insider Branch, move on to a Current Branch and when all went fine end up with the Current Branch for Business. In April there was talk about aligning the Windows 10 releases with the Office 365 Pro Plus release schedule. The Office 365 release schedule is semi annual or twice a year for non-English readers. Let’s take a look at what is changing and what the impact of that is on businesses.


At first the biggest change seemed to be the announced naming, they where moving from Branches to Channels. The Current Branch would be named Semi Annual Channel pilot and the Current Branch for Business would be named Semi Annual Channel Broad. They dropped these names which I think is good as they looked like one was a pilot version which it isn’t.

Now they announced that the new name for the release schedule is Semi Annual Channel. Every six months they will release just like the Office 355 Pro Plus releases. There will be no extra naming added anymore. The previous CB (Current Branch) name is gone as well as the CBB (Current Branch for Business) name.


The release schedule which was a little messy the last years will be a March and September release. You have six months in between versions or builds, not sure how they will show differences. I guess they will have e.g. the 1703 version with a build number or so. The Semi Annual in the Semi Annual channel name gives away the clue, every six months a new version and once it is released you start deploying it in a pilot phase internally. Once you are confident that it works well you scale up to more users and

Copyright Microsoft

eventually your whole business.

The drawing shows how Microsoft intended it, you plan while Microsoft is still deploying the insider builds. Once they released the new version/build in March or September you start a small pilot phase, 10% or so of your business. These are your key users used to work with new solutions. Once all your applications are validated and the key users give a go you expand. This process will start over six months later when the new version/build comes out. the version you have running has a 18 month support so you can skip a beat but not to many.

Impact on businesses

Today businesses wait until Microsoft releases the Current Branch for Business release, it is released about 3 to 4 months after the initial release. Vendors like Citrix and VMware only support the CBB (Current Branch for Business) and not the initial Current Branch release. Because of the slow releases there was ample time to test your applications and prepare your business. Businesses are not just working to test new versions, there is no unlimited budget available.

Because of the immense changes Microsoft did in every Windows 10 version so far vendors needed time to adapt. Changes to how startmenu’s are handled, how tiles are annualstored and so on have impact on user experience. With the new release schedule there is no head start anymore, there is no CB version anymore. The version they release will be “business ready” from day one. Vendors will need Day one support for the version or customers are stuck with a version unable to upgrade.

But if we assume the vendors have day one support or that Microsoft stops doing massive changes every time, still it will have massive impact on IT departments. I understand that they want to align with Office 365 but that’s a whole different cookie. Office updates don’t have a massive impact on businesses normally (given your business plugins are written correctly). Windows updates have a massive impact and you need to offer customers time to test, adjust and deploy. I think a six month period is just crazy.


If you want read the Microsoft articles on this, go to these links;


I’m still getting my head around the impact of this news, it seems something small but I think the impact is huge. Pushing customers to follow a six month release with only 18 months of support on the release they have running is pretty heavy on some customer I know. I think many will be out of support pretty soon and just run a small pool with the new version to use in case of a support call. Let’s read up the next coming days and see how this turn out.

At least we have just one more topic for VMworld…


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