Microsoft has revamped its Windows Insider Program by introducing a new Canary Channel for its users. It will exist alongside the existing Dev (now rebooted), Beta, and Release Preview Channels but will target highly technical users instead.
While this might seem like a welcome change for developers alongside maybe a nice way of getting a glimpse of the upcoming Windows 12, in my book it might just also be a huge red flag.
How the Canary Channel is different than the rebooted Dev Channel and the
The new Canary channel currently operates in a similar manner to how the previous Dev channel used to. So, the earlier development stage builds are pushed to this new channel. If you were in the older Dev channel, Microsoft automatically moved you to the new Canary channel.
The revamped Dev channel now utilizes builds slightly further in the development cycle compared to the early builds of the Canary channel. However, the Beta channel usually has the later builds that are close to a final release, and once it's worked out and stable enough, final preview versions are rolled out to the Release Preview Channel before rolling out the stable build to the public.
For now, Microsoft seems to be focusing more on the Canary, Dev, and Release Preview channels while the Beta isn't included in much right now. Right now Canary is getting 25xxx builds, while Dev is getting 23xxx builds and Release Preview is getting 22xxx builds. This means the new Canary is continuing the builds from the previous Dev channel, which received 25xxx builds.
Why The Windows Insider Canary Channel might just be a Red Flag
While for the most part, these new channels look like a rearranged version of the past ones, the reason for this shift might not be as simple. Just because the distribution of builds didn't change much right now, it doesn't mean that it won't change later on.
Various tech giants have reduced their workforce around the world and Microsoft wasn't an exception for that. If the company wants to push super-early builds to users directly and get feedback from there instead of getting it from an internal testing team, the new Canary Channel seems to be an excellent option for that.
This allows the company to make do with a reduced workforce, but the reliability of the feedback will be questionable as not everyone using the Canary Channel will be a development professional and most of them won't spend all their time testing their Windows build.
Also, if the reduction in the workforce actually comes into play, it can be a clever way to avoid new hiring and get feedback for free from power users. I've seen other companies using this approach in the past. That might be good for the company, but for the employees and the end users, this can't be beneficial.
How Microsoft can better approach the Canary Channel
Pushing almost untested firmware to the users might not be the wisest decision for Microsoft. The chance of the quality of the final product being highly compromised is a real possibility and it's better if professionals in the company test these early firmware codes themselves before pushing them out to users.
Microsoft should make sure that they don't take away jobs and don't rely upon users for critical-level OS development feedback. If these can be avoided, the Canary Channel is a welcome addition to the Windows Insider Program.