Windows 10 patch KB 3081444 and the future of 'service packs'

Microsoft's latest fix holds some surprises under the hood -- and could make us rethink the company's plans for updates and release schedules

Yesterday, Microsoft released KB 3081444, which you might think was a companion to the out-of-band Internet Explorer fix, MS015-093/KB 3088903, that debuted the same day. KB 3081444 follows a string of other Cumulative Updates:

It looks like KB 3081444, aka CU 4, includes the fixes in MS015/KB 3088903 -- and a whole lot more. Poster bileci on the Reddit Win10 forum has this tantalizing hint:

If you look at the Build Kernel, MS actually updated the kernel code with this update (from registry):

BuildLab REG_SZ 10240.th1.150810-2333 BuildLabEx REG_SZ 10240.16431.amd64fre.th1.150810-2333

If you notice, the build is dated Aug 10 (150810), this is new with this update. So this cumulative update applied more than IE Vuln fix... And I would assume this to be the plan moving forward with all updates.

That's fascinating on many levels. For one, it means that Microsoft slipped a kernel change into CU 4, in addition to the Internet Explorer fix. For another, it means that Microsoft pushed a kernel change without huge screams of pain -- unheard of in the past few years.

I'd have to agree with bileci. It looks like Cumulative Updates, in the future, will include all sorts of surprises, and we aren't going to hear about them.

This also brings up the matter of rapid-fire releases of Cumulative Updates for Windows 10. They aren't entirely security patches. They aren't entirely plumbing fixes. They come from both Windows Update and from the Windows Store.

I've been tempted to call the rapid-release patches "Service Releases," as they're roughly analogous to the Service Releases we used to see for Windows 95. (Remember Windows 95 Service Release 2.5C? Never mind.) But now it's clear that the Cumulative Updates will continue at a much faster pace than even the Win95 sprint.

That said, I think the term "Service Release" isn't warranted -- Microsoft described the Service Releases in detail. These new items are arriving like stealthy missiles: very rapidly, with basically no description. Thus, I bow to the folks in Redmond and will start referring to them as Cumulative Updates. "Windows 10 CU 22" -- about where we'll end up at the end of October, by my estimation -- has a good ring to it.

Which brings us to the next major release of Windows 10: Microsoft's been tight-lipped, but it's widely believed that plans are afoot to release the next wave of Win10, code-named Threshold 2, in October. I hope upon hope that Microsoft doesn't call it "Threshold 2" or (as has been suggested elsewhere) "Wave 2." And for Pete's sake, I hope it drops the "Update 1" terminology that caused so much pain in Windows 8.1.

What Microsoft needs is a name that suggests to customers that Threshold 2 (or whatever it's called) is the new, rapid-release version of a Service Pack. I know, I know -- "Service Pack" is so 19th-century dentist office. The term carries a lot of baggage, as Microsoft has declared its fealty to Service Packs and Service Pack maintenance cycles since the days of Windows XP Service Pack 1. "Service Packs" run the gamut from minor -- say, Vista Service Pack 1 -- to truly profound, as was the case with XP Service Pack 2.

And "everybody" knows that you should wait to install a new version of Windows until Service Pack 1 is out, right?

I would submit, at the risk of boos and jeers from many of my longtime readers, that Threshold 2, at least as I currently envision it, is very similar to a Service Pack. Maybe it's more analogous to a Vista SP1 than an XP SP2, but it'll still be a substantial improvement over Win10 RTM.

In short, Microsoft needs a name for Threshold 2 that brings up visions of a Service Pack 1. It needs a name that not only says, "Windows 10 is open for business," but also, "You really need to install this pretty quickly to stay on board for the next bunch of changes."

As you no doubt know, everybody except those on the Long Term Servicing Branch will have to apply these, uh, Service Packs within a few months or risk getting knocked off the update chain.

(Worth noting: We haven't seen any feature changes in CU 1 to CU 4, as best I can tell, except the inclusion of the Spotlight advertising opportunity on the lock screens of Windows Home machines. Thus, we haven't yet seen Current Branch Win10 users going into the trenches as cannon fodder. It's not clear if that will ever be the case, in a practical sense.)

Can you think of a good name for these new hurdle points -- the ones that have to be installed, sooner or later, for all but the LTSB? If the phrase is reminiscent of "Service Pack 1" without actually saying "Service Pack 1," all the better.

I have a few ideas to toss out:

  • Service Point 1
  • Checkpoint 1
  • Windows 10.1
Any of those could then be followed by Cumulative Update numbers -- Win10 SP1 CU3, for example, or Win10 Ckpoint 1 CU 3, or even (gulp) Win 10.1.3.

What do you think?

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