Microsoft is changing how it releases major versions of Windows again, and it could mean we see a Windows 12 release in 2024. Windows Central reports that Microsoft is shifting back to a three-year release cycle for Windows, which means the next major version of Windows is now due in 2024. It’s another big change to how Microsoft develops Windows.
Microsoft originally moved away from its three-year cycle with the release of Windows 10 in 2015, prioritizing the idea of Windows as a service. Instead of a big release of features every three years in a new Windows release, Windows 10 was updated twice a year with big new features. For years, many Windows watchers thought Windows 10 would be the last big bang release of Windows, after a Microsoft employee described Windows 10 as “the last version of Windows.”
Microsoft never dismissed those comments, and instead said at the time they were “reflective of the way Windows will be delivered as a service bringing new innovations and updates in an ongoing manner.” That all changed with the release of Windows 11 last year, and Microsoft moved to an annual update cadence for both Windows 10 and 11.
Given Microsoft’s move to the Windows 11 branding, it’s reasonable to expect that any future major version of Windows would also see a branding change. We haven’t seen Microsoft adopt Windows 11.1 or 11.2 with its major Windows 11 updates so far, so many will now be wondering if Windows 12 is on the way.
Alongside the next version of Windows in 2024, Microsoft still has plans to keep Windows 11 fresh in the years ahead. The software maker has been moving away from its original promise of big annual updates for Windows 11 in recent months, preferring to ship major features once they’re ready. The next major update, 22H2, is currently expected to arrive in September or October, after it was finalized recently by Microsoft.
Microsoft has reportedly scrapped plans for a similar big 23H2 annual update in 2023, and will now prioritize rolling out new features throughout 2023 instead. This lines up more closely with Microsoft’s recent changes to its Windows Insider program, with more experiments and prototype features being tested widely.
Microsoft hasn’t officially commented on its Windows roadmap plans. The company has put a renewed effort into Windows over the past two years, after the pandemic boosted Windows usage. Microsoft had originally planned to launch Windows 10X on dual-screen devices, but after declaring “the PC is back” at the beginning of the pandemic it went on to rework 10X into what became Windows 11.