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article imageLeak: Microsoft creating Windows 10 edition for 'Advanced PCs'

By James Walker     Jun 5, 2017 in Technology
A leaked build of Windows 10 has revealed Microsoft is working on three new versions of the operating system designed for "advanced PCs." The company looks set to revive its Workstation branding last used over 20 years ago to offer extended features.
The discovery of the new Windows distributions, known as SKUs, was made by Twitter users @AndItsTito and @GrandMofongo. The references were found inside files in Windows 10 Build 16212, inadvertently released by Microsoft to Windows Insiders last week.
Microsoft confirmed after the bungled launch that the build was never meant to be publicly available. An internal slip-up caused the company to release an internal version that's not yet ready to enter the public rings. Although it moved quickly to pull back the build and prevent computers from upgrading, inevitably some users managed to download it.
After investigating the new files, @AndItsTito uncovered the existence of three new Windows SKUs. One of them is a server build, called Windows Server 2016 ServerRdsh. Intriguingly, it can be upgraded to the Education version of Windows, suggesting it's not the same as current server editions.
More interestingly to many, the two other builds are called "Windows 10 Pro for Advanced PCs." Although there are two versions listed, it's worth noting that the "N" release will be practically identical to the non-N counterpart. The addition of this character refers to Microsoft's customised Windows builds for Europe that adhere to historic antitrust rulings.
While the new SKUs are known outwardly as "Advanced PCs," internally Windows identifies them as Professional Workstation. As The Verge points out, this indicates Microsoft could be returning to branding it last used for Windows 4.0 Workstation Edition. A company slide leaked later by @GrandMofongo suggests it will be publicly marketed as "Windows 10 Pro for Workstation PCs," although there is a prominent notice that the name is a placeholder.
This new SKU of Windows won't be available for your regular laptop or desktop. As the name implies, it's for demanding users who have to work with very large datasets on a daily basis. Although the complete feature set is currently left undefined, the slide details several enhancements that predominantly focus on storage performance and improved hardware compatibility.
In a major change, Microsoft will make its ReFS file system the default for the new SKU. It will replace the NTFS system currently used on Windows 10 consumer editions. ReFS boasts an expanded feature set and built-in fault tolerance mechanisms, making it a better choice for mission-critical workloads. Microsoft will also include the SMBDirect protocol for network file sharing, improving performance when storing data on servers.
"[Windows 10 Workstation is] a new edition of Windows, with unique support for server grade hardware and designed to meet demanding needs of mission critical and compute intensive workloads," the caption on the leaked slide reads.
Microsoft hasn't publicly commented on the leaks but the presence of an internal slide and files within Windows suggest the new SKUs are in active development. They're likely to appear later this year alongside the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. The current feature list is said to be "just a starting point" though, implying they could be further away if major capabilities are yet to be implemented.
More about Windows, windows 10, windows 10 workstation, Devices, workstations
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