When Microsoft® originally announced that Windows™ 10 would be regularly updated with both quality and feature updates, it generated a great deal of concern among IT administrators and many who would be faced with managing a constantly evolving operating system. Many organizations simply can’t risk unexpected changes to something as critical as an OS, so if Microsoft wanted their latest offering to be a success, they had to find a way to minimize the risk to their biggest customer base.
Windows 10 Home Edition is automatically updated with quality and feature updates as soon as they are released. Mandatory updates may have stability or even UI implications in the business or education sectors, however, so Microsoft allows these organizations to temporarily defer feature updates, while continuing to receive the monthly quality updates. By default, organizations receive quality and feature updates as soon as they’re released, but unlike Home users, organizations have tools to let them temporarily defer their deployment. The “Semi-Annual Channel” allows organizations using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or Windows Update for Business to defer feature updates for up to a year.
Perhaps somewhat reluctantly, Microsoft introduced the Windows 10 Enterprise “Long-term Servicing Branch” (LTSB), which was later renamed the “Long-Term Servicing Channel” (LTSC). The LTSB/LTSC is essentially an enterprise specific edition of Windows 10, without some of the more consumer-focused tools such as Cortana, Edge and apps obtained from the Microsoft Store. LTSC does not receive the semi-annual feature updates, although it does get the monthly “quality” updates. For organizations running LTSB that want the feature updates, Microsoft will consolidate them and revise the LTSB build every two to three years, although deploying those releases is not mandatory.
The LTSC is intended for devices which are very specialized and perform a single important task, such as medical equipment or ATMs. The rationale is that the critical nature of these devices deserves stability and security, more than feature updates. Organizations using LTSC and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) can even defer security updates if they wish.
I have not seen list of requirements to qualify devices for LTSC, but Microsoft says that anything with Office installed, for example, is probably not something with adequately specialized focus.
It’s safe to assume that just as Windows 10 will continue to evolve, Microsoft will continue to fine-tune the way customers can use it.