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WaaS (Windows as a Service) FAQ

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

I put together this comprehensive WaaS FAQ. These are the questions that I have come across in the field that are either scattered in more than one place or may not be documented explicitly. My main goal for this FAQ is to help you get comfortable with the idea of WaaS, which hopefully in turn will allow you to have that conversation with your peers and superiors. In my experience the beginning discussions of adopting WaaS are just as hard as the actual implementation phase. It is a very new way of doing things, and customers typically have the most peculiar questions with a lot of resistance upfront. The idea is for this FAQ to capture as much of that as possible and serve a single area information for those who need help or are interested in this topic. This post will be a living document and will continually be edited and updated.

What is WaaS?

  • Windows as a Service” is really about simplifying the overall process of how to get the latest versions of Windows to your users. Instead of the fork-lift approach of building and then deploying, the process has become a lot more streamlined, where the building and deploying efforts are much smaller, but ongoing/constant. Think of your mobile device getting updates; iOS 11.01 to 11.02. No wipe and reloads, golden images, thick clients, and so on. Once on Windows 10 SAC (Semi Annual Channel – Formally Current Branch), the next version you get can be as simple as getting a patch like update from either Windows Updates or SCCM (assuming enterprise).

Give it to me straight, what does this mean for users?

  • Two (semi-annual) feature updates a year. One around March, and the other around September.

What is a feature update?

  • Targeted twice per year, a feature update is a patch-like package that can be deployed like you deploy any other Windows patch today. With this is newish direction, Microsoft will always be working on new features, that either don’t make the cut, or end up making in the next feature update. Expect subtle changes, not major. Think Windows 7 to SP1 not Windows XP to Windows 7.

How many features updates should we expect a year?

  • As mentioned above, two. One near the beginning of the year dubbed “2-Digit Year + 03” and another one later on in the year dubbed “2-digit year + 09”. As you may have guessed, the "03" and "09" in name refers to the months "March" and September".  Examples: 1703 (March of 2017) and 1709 (September of 2017). Note: This does not mean they will come out exactly in these months, but close to it. The fixed naming convention is for consistency.

Up to how many feature updates can a single machine/user skip, not in terms of support, but in terms of requisitions for going from one OS level to the other?

  • As of right now (with no known plans to change this) any Win10 version can be upgraded to any newer Win10 version. So, there is no limit as to the number of versions that can be skipped (outside of supportability for the older version).Keep in mind the following:When skipping many versions, this may lead to additional hurdles due to the big jump.Another thing to keep in mind is the method you use to upgrade. For example, W10 1507 is not supported on SCCM 1802. So even though you can technically upgrade from any W10 version to any newer W10 version, the method of upgrade may be limited and not compatible. 

What is a UWP App?

  • A UWP (Universal Windows Platform) App is as the name the suggests; an application built on a platform that can be universally used across all your Windows 10 devices. All UWP apps are distributed as an .AppX package and are disturbed through the Windows Store. Think how of how the same application can work on both an iPad, or an iPhone.

Can a UWP App be Removed?Yes.

  • So, some of these apps come pre-installed, and among those are some that kind of feel built-in. For the ones you have either downloaded yourself, or for some of the ones that have come pre-installed, you can simply remove them via the Windows Store, or by right clicking the app itself, and clicking on uninstall. For the Windows 10 built-in apps like Photos, Maps, Mail and Calendar, those require some more tinkering like running a PS script. I don’t recommend this route, instead I recommend blocking them via policy.

Can a UWP App be Blocked?

  • Yes. The best way to accomplish this is to use the built-in AppLocker tool (only available on the Enterprise version). This feature is configured via policy. Look for a guide to be posted on my blog soon. Until then, many tutorials out there on the net.How are UWP App’s updated?Through the Windows Store, and while the “Store” is the frontend platform/GUI, UWP App updates do also go through the Windows Update APIs.

What happened to “Windows Photo Viewer” (formally known as “Windows Picture and Fax Viewer”), which was the default photo viewer on Windows since XP?

  • “Windows Photo Viewer” is no longer the default photo viewer on Windows 10. The “Photos” UWP application that comes preinstalled with the OS has taken its place.

Can Cortona be blocked?

  • Yes. Via group policy, under: Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search. Locate Allow Cortana and double-click on it to open the relevant policy. Select Disabled.

I thought “Paint” was R.I.P?

  • It was, then it wasn’t, and now who knows. Sarcasm aside, Paint is still available on Windows 10. The idea for now is that Microsoft plans to keep the original “Paint” as part of the system, but at some point, it will be removed from the OS officially, and will be available for download through the “Windows Store”. No timeframe has been provided for this move yet. “Paint 3D” which has been available since W10 1709 is considered to be its more modern replacement.

Can’t I just install the Long-term servicing branch/channel and call it a day?

  • This is not a solution. The rule of thumb is, if the machine has an Office applications on it, then it most likely should not be running LTSC. This servicing channel is meant for really specific and special cases. More importantly you may eventually run into a hardware compatibility issue when it comes to things like Silicon support for example. Again, this servicing channel is meant for machines that are not meant to be updated or changed frequently. Think specific computer for a line machine at the factory that is off the network, that may have a computer refresh cycle every 5-10 years.

How will Microsoft handle LTSC support and releases?

  • Microsoft will offer a new LTSC release every 2-3 years. This channel will support the currently released silicon at the time of release. As future silicon generations are released, you will need a newer version of Windows 10 to support the newly released silicon. So, if you receive new hardware, you will need to wait for next release of LTSC for support on the new silicon.

Can you upgrade from LTSC to SAC (LTSB to CB)?

Does Edge need Internet Explorer to Function?

  • Edge does not need IE to function (Technically), but for the time being, the combo of having both of them is something I recommend especially for Enterprises in terms of experience. If you wanted to you can disable IE 11, and Edge would work just fine. No dependencies.However, there are aspects that have been designed to work together:For example: Using the Enterprise Mode Site List, you can dictate which sites Microsoft Edge should open in Internet Explorer 11. For those sites, they will essentially open automatically in IE 11. Depending on configuration you select, a user will either be warned about it, or it will just happen.

What type of Application is Edge?

  • Yes, it’s true, Edge is a UWP app. It is not available via the store per se, but built-in into the OS.

How does Edge receive updates?

  • Through Windows Update. Security updates are released every two to four weeks, and the bigger updates are pushed out as part of W10 feature updates.

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