Microsoft has quietly begun testing a new way to deliver updates to some Windows apps and features without pushing a full operating system update.
According to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, some users are starting to see a new “Windows Feature Experience Pack” mention in their System Settings. And while Microsoft hasn’t publicly said much about what that means, it appears to include a small bundle of applications including updated versions of the Windows Snipping tool, text input panel, and shell suggestions.
The Feature Experience Pack is listed in the “Features on Demand” section of Microsoft’s Windows 10 documentation for PC manufacturers. But aside from the fact that it’s a 44.15MB package available for Windows 10, versions 2004 and later, there’s not much information on that page.
Foley suggests that the pack could be part of an effort to separate the Windows 10 user interface and core set of apps from the Windows 10 Core OS. But it’s unclear what that will me in the long run.
Overall, this reminds me of the way Google has been separating key components of Android from the operating system so that it can push updates through the Google Play Store as soon as they’re available instead of waiting for a major OS update. The difference is that Google has a lot less control over OS updates than Microsoft does — phone makers are largely responsible for making sure the latest Android updates will work with their devices and then deciding if and when to roll out the update to users. Microsoft delivers Windows updates directly to users no matter what company manufactured the Windows PC you’re using.
So the advantage for Microsoft and Windows users may simply be that some Microsoft apps and features are updated more frequently, while Google’s move to push Android features through the Play Store is a way of ensuring that users get those updates at all.