Microsoft has long been the bastion of long term support for older platforms, so today’s support news out of Redmond is particularly surprising. Intel launched its 6th generation Skylake cores back in August, and support on Windows 7 has been not as strong as Windows 10 right out of the gate. It’s not terribly strange that new features like Intel’s Speed Shift will not be coming to Windows 7, but today Microsoft announced that going forward, new processors will only be supported on Windows 10. Skylake will only be supported through devices on a supported list, and even those will only have support until July 2017.

For the average consumer buying a new PC, this is not a huge issue. Generally, consumers buy a PC and use the operating system that it comes with. That is going to be Windows 10. But the enterprise schedule is often much more drawn out when it comes to desktop operating system support. Windows XP was the most famous example of this, with businesses clinging to it well past its best before date, because Windows Vista and newer versions of the operating system significantly changed the system rights and driver models, rendering older programs incompatible.

The move to Windows 7 was very drawn out, so perhaps Microsoft is trying to avoid this again in the future, but moving an enterprise to a new desktop OS can bring a lot of testing requirements, training, and back-end infrastructure updates which are all non-trivial. Microsoft has made its name in the enterprise by being generous with support lifetimes, and I think what is most troubling about today’s news is that Windows 7 has long-term support until January 14, 2020, and Windows 8.1 until January 10, 2023. News like this is going to catch a lot of companies off-guard, since they would have been expecting to have at least until 2020 to migrate off of Windows 7, and many of these companies have just finally moved to Windows 7 after a decade or more on XP.

To give just 18 months with these support policies is likely not what companies want to hear. This doesn’t mean that Windows 7 will be end of life in July 2017, but if you can’t run it on new hardware, this is going to put a dent in device sales too. If companies are not ready to move to Windows 10, they may have to stick with older hardware.

This does not just affect Intel based machines either. According to the blog post by Terry Myerson, Windows 10 will be the only supported Windows platform for Kaby Lake (Intel’s next gen 14 nm processors), Snapdragon 820 (Qualcomm), and Carrizo (AMD).

Going forward, as new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support. This enables us to focus on deep integration between Windows and the silicon, while maintaining maximum reliability and compatibility with previous generations of platform and silicon. For example, Windows 10 will be the only supported Windows platform on Intel’s upcoming “Kaby Lake” silicon, Qualcomm’s upcoming “8996” silicon, and AMD’s upcoming “Bristol Ridge” silicon.

After July 2017, computers on the supported list that are still running Windows 7 will still get security updates, but any updates specific to that platform will not be released if it risks the reliability of other Windows 7 or 8.1 platforms.

To me, the oddest part of the announcement is who it is coming from. When Intel releases a new CPU, it is generally the motherboard makers working with Intel who provide the correct BIOS emulation modes and drivers for older versions of Windows. It’s somewhat odd that Microsoft is the one announcing this news rather than a company like Intel or AMD stating they won’t be supporting the older platform.

For those in the business world, this blog post may force you to reconsider your upgrade plans, or at least your hardware evergreen cycle. A full list of supported PCs for the 18-month period is supposed to be released next week.

Source: Windows Blog

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  • Reflex - Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - link

    I would argue it was even worse when Michael Asher was writing. He made a lot of bullshit sound plausible enough to get referenced by other sites.
  • Yojimbo - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    Yeah the title should definitely be changed.
  • Brett Howse - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    Sorry you are correct the title is vague. I'll fix it up.
  • GTVic - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    "Microsoft to Stop Adding New Processor Features to Older Versions of Windows."
  • zodiacfml - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    I was about to post something similar to this. What kind of support are they talking about, which seems to be support for new CPU features in older versions of Windows.
  • micksh - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Alarmist title. Clickbait. Microsoft doesn’t need to support new CPU’s on old OS’es. CPU vendors maintain full backward compatibility with older OS’es, so users don’t have to worry.

    What Microsoft is saying is that if Intel invents AVX-1024, or something like that, it won't be supported in OS earlier that Win10. And it's OK because if older OS is used because of legacy software, that software won't support it either.

    OSX and Linux most likely will not add support for this kind of stuff to their 3-year old OS versions either. Otherwise, all old Windows versions run just fine on latest CPUs.

    Our company sometimes ships new PCs with Broadwell-E and Windows XP because they have to work with long time obsolete Firewire cameras that have no drivers for anything later than XP. It’s a job of hardware makers to develop drivers. Microsoft doesn’t develop 3rd party drivers.

    Windows XP, with last mainstream update in 2009, still works fine with year 2014 CPU, and I’m sure it will work with many next CPU generations too, so will Windows 7.
  • Alexvrb - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    You think this is bad, you should see how it's going over at some other tech sites. There's even a bunch of posters going apesh- like it's the end of the world, when the reality is that this is a NON-ISSUE. Skylake on Win7 already is missing speedshift support and that's fine. Want the latest features? Use the latest OS.
  • Tams80 - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    The author could do well to remember that in English the first part of a sentence is often interpreted as the most important. Using 'except' is either bad writing, or clickbait.
  • addversaarry - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    It doesn't read like that at all, where did you learn how to read? Close that school.
  • Kjella - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    Not surprised, Microsoft has completely lost it with Windows 10. It's nagware, FUD and forced obsolescence all the way because people aren't adopting it and they're getting more and more like a crack dealer trying to give you the first shot "free" every day. With the total disrespect they show for people who do not want to upgrade, how will it be like when they have you over a barrel?
    On Windows 10 there's no choice, they can do what they want and there's no opting out, no turning it updates unless you block it at an external firewall and then you lose all security patches. Right now they're making Apple and Google look like the good guys, it's like Microsoft is trying to prove they can spy on and lock in their customers just as good as the competition. Two letters: F and U.

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