Most of the Windows 10 builds published in the Insider program don’t come with ISO disk images, so the Windows 10 installer doesn’t get a ton of scrutiny. Every now and then, however, ISOs are published (in theory every time there’s a build pushed to the slow channel) allowing for fresh installs. Twitter user Tero Alhonen has spotted a new installation option in the latest ISO: Windows 10 Enterprise for Remote Sessions.
Some kind of remote desktop capability has been a part of Windows since Windows 2000 (and before that with third-party extensions or a special version of Windows NT 4), but Microsoft has always restricted it in various ways. Windows Server supports a pair of remote sessions for remote administration, or with suitable licensing, multiple remote sessions to provide desktops (or individual applications) for thin clients and remote workers. Desktop Windows (Pro or better) supports only a single remote session. Connecting to it locks the screen of the physical console, preventing multiple simultaneous users.
With the new SKU, the multi-session capability is now a part of desktop Windows. It’s not yet clear if this is to be used instead of Remote Desktop on Windows Server or as well as. Mary Jo Foley’s sources tell her that Microsoft intends to offer multiple options for remote access and that the new SKU means they won’t have to rely on Windows Server, implying that at least for now both solutions will be supported.
However, in the longer term we can speculate that the Windows 10 SKU may prove to be the better choice. Windows 10 gets two major feature updates a year on what Microsoft calls the Semi Annual Channel (SAC). Windows Server is also to receive two updates a year, but with an important difference. The full desktop environment—required for Remote Desktop sessions—will not be included in the SAC releases of Windows Server. It will be restricted, instead, to the Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) releases of Windows Server.
The imminent update—Windows 10 Version 1809, aka Redstone 5, likely to ship in October—is to be one of the special LTSC releases. The LTSC Server version will be branded Windows Server 2019, and will have a corresponding Windows 10 desktop version, probably named something along the lines of Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2018. After that, however, it’ll be another three years before the next LTSC release is made—three years in which the Windows 10 desktop experience will inevitably be upgraded and improved.
Organizations using Windows Server for their remote desktop needs will have to wait until 2021 for the next LTSC release to get those desktop updates. But those using Windows 10 Enterprise for Remote Sessions probably won’t—we can reasonably assume that it’ll follow the SAC update track, giving access to all the improvements coming down the pipeline. This will include some significant changes such as the tabs-in-every-window Sets feature that’s still in development and which won’t be ready for version 1809. As such, companies wanting to ensure a consistent desktop environment between thin and thick client users might well prefer to use the new SKU.
Using Windows 10 as the basis for Remote Desktop may also improve occasional compatibility annoyances; it’s less common these days, but some applications detect which version of the operating system they’re being installed on, and refuse to install if it’s a Server version. Using the desktop version as the basis for Remote Desktop should avoid this issue.