Microsoft fired up the speculation machine last night by issuing a fresh build of Windows 10 to lucky skip-ahead testers: and it contains code from 2020s Windows.
While greybeards still enjoy drawers filled with dusty CDs of beta code for Windows NT, handed out years before final Release To Manufacturing, this is a first since Windows 10's release (unless one counts the leaked builds smuggled out through Redmond's walls.)
Windows Insiders are Microsoft's army of volunteer testers, given access to early versions of Windows 10 in order to give the OS a thorough kicking on as many hardware configurations as possible. Until yesterday, "Skip Ahead" meant opting to jump beyond the next version of the operating system for ever shinier toys.
As such, anxious testers were wondering when 19H2 would put in an appearance, with 19H1 (likely called the Windows 10 April 2019 Update) nearing release. The "Skip Ahead" ring was briefly opened just over two weeks ago, and users have been impatiently awaiting their first glimpse of 19H2, likely the "October 2019 Update", ever since.
Would it see the return of Sets? Might there be hints of a leaner, lighter Windows? Perhaps some more beatings with the dark mode stick that so many inexplicably enjoy so much?
Surprise! Those Skip Ahead users are actually getting a glimpse of a Windows world in the year 2020, thanks to build 18836.
In a posting woefully short on detail, Windows Insider supremo Dona Sarkar stated the bleeding obvious when she said: "some things we are working on in 20H1 require a longer lead time" without actually explaining why Skip Ahead testers are being asked to Skip Ahead quite so far into the future. She also said Insiders would get hold of 19H2 after 19H1 (the next release) is "nearly finished and ready".
So that means the brave souls on Skip Ahead will get a downgrade to 19H2, right? Not so, according to Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc:
So, if you selected Skip Ahead, you won't be seeing 19H2 (likely the October update). This could mean Microsoft intends to play with its Rings. Fast Ring users might become what was Skip Ahead and get 19H2 as 19H1 nears release while the currently neglected Slow Ring finally gets some fresh code to test.
Then again, LeBlanc was also the chap that cheerfully reckoned enough testing had been done with the October 2018 Update to bypass Release Preview and unleash the thing directly on users. That didn't end so well.
So, pull up a chair and crank up the ol' Speculation 3000.
Right now, the new build that contains the 2020 code has little visible in the way of the new features, which is not unusual for a Skip Ahead build. The change does, however, seem to imply a shake-up of the testing rings are imminent for Insiders. If so, it is a shame that those enthusiastic souls who opted to join Skip Ahead were not warned that they would be leaping two versions into the future rather than one.
Or perhaps, dare we say it, there is something so horrifying in 19H2 that 20H1 has been hastily shovelled out to give Microsoft more time to deal with it. ®