Sun Valley 2 - What's next

Sun Valley 2 - What's next header image

Windows 11 has been out for just a few months, but insiders are already testing features that will be available in the next version of the operating system. With so many testers and so much excitement and anticipation on released features and features that are yet to be released by the Redmond giant, people have been wondering what the next version of Windows 11 will be. We have been digging inside Azure code as well as talking with people with connections to Microsoft and in this article, we will tell you what we found.

What are development semesters?

In 2019, Windows development phase names switched from being named after the fictional Minecraft material "Redstone" to being named after named elements of the periodic table.

It is also worth noting that Microsoft still uses "Redstone" to denote the main branches of Windows development. This means that branches that are named after Redstone(rs_prerelease) have the latest code.

What comes after the October release

To get straight to the point - The next update after the one released in October last year is Windows 11 22H2 based on the Copper(CU) codebase. This is confirmed by Windows setup dlls(appraiserres.dll in particular, shown below) ever since build 22449 from August last year.

Notepad window with RT_ALL_BuildIsCU22H2OrGreater selected

Contrary to what some news outlets have been saying, there is no such thing as a 22H3 release or a 22H2 Nickel release. We are going to explain in a future article how windows development is laid out but for now the semesters are laid out like so

Image showing that 22H2 is the semester with the next Windows 11 release and that we are at the beginning of Copper 22H2

Now, how does that fit in with the builds insiders have been receiving for some time? As of writing, there are 2 builds for server and client. The former is based on the Copper codebase (build 25057 on the rs_prerelease branch) and the latter is based on the Nickel codebase (build 22557 on the ni_release branch). It is believed that the client version of 11 got ani_release build to allow a future Dev-Beta transition period that MS announced last week. We do not know at this time exactly when this window will open. What we do know is that after the window closes, builds will get more unstable so act quickly.

A timeline that depicts 25054.rs_prerelease as being compiled on 8th February 2022, 2 weeks after 22543 rs_prerelease and with it a new copper development cycle beginning as well as rs_prerelease jumping 2500 builds. On 16th February 2022 build 22557 ni_release is flighted to client dev and 25057 rs_prerelease to server


As for features we have quite the list of changes such as

  • Drag and drop in taskbar

  • New gestures for start

  • Folder previews

  • More redesigned apps(Notepad, Task Manager)

  • Mica in title bars

  • Refined animations

  • The ability to customize the recommended section

and many more.

Features we are still expecting

We have talked with some people as well as looked at tweets by reverse engineer experts like Albacore and have deducted that MS is toying with the following ideas

  • Universal dark mode (unused dark mode references discovered by the StartAllBack developer and the Rectify11 devs)

  • Taskbar app overflow flyout (discovered by Albacore)

  • Stickers (discovered by Albacore)

  • Redesigned print queue

and probably more that we do not even know about

Release date?

There is conflicting information about the release date of 22H2. Zac Bowden from Windows Central says that the RTM will be made in May, but the H2 name would suggest an October release. We believe that the final build might be made in May, and from that point on to receive cumulative updates until the final release.

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