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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  • HollyDOL - Thursday, January 21, 2016 - link

    Similar hoaxes spread with every new release of Windows as far as I can remember. Actualy I won a bet about Win10 one against my friend :-).

    The one I fell for was the XP-SP2 one with "SP2 can't play video files" and I was delaying upgrade due to that until I have seen on different computer what a nonsense it is. Ever since then I cba about anything like that unless it's published by respected security research web as a true vulnerability.
  • Svend Tveskæg - Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - link

    Then we are at least two. :-)
  • Murloc - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    it's a private company and they're doing what is useful to get everybody on board with their new way of doing things and to kill piracy.
    If someone doesn't like it he can always use linux.
  • Gadgety - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    @Kjella. I totally agree, the nagware is abusive.
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, January 21, 2016 - link

    ZzzzZzzzzzzzzzz... . I hope you don't have a Facebook account or any Social media account.
  • User.Name - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    I guess I'm switching to OS X or Linux when I build a Kaby Lake system later this year, since Microsoft refuse to implement proper privacy controls on Windows 10 - or even issue a clear statement on exactly what data they are collecting on users.
    And the lack of control over what updates/drivers are downloaded from Windows Update is a problem as well. I've had too many problems with bad drivers being pulled down from Windows Update on 8.1 to leave it in control of the OS.

    I can understand these restrictions being in the Home edition of Windows 10 - even though I'm still not too happy about it - but full control over this should be enabled on the Professional edition. It should not be limited to Enterprise copies of the OS.
  • cbf - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    You do realize that neither OS/X nor most Linux distributions release updates that let their releases from seven years ago support new hardware, right?

    As for the privacy issues:
  • Articuno - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    A) Collecting data on what I do with my computer isn't okay just because it's (supposedly) anonymized.

    B) If it was truly harmless you could turn it off entirely, but you can't. Only Enterprise editions can fully disable data mining.
  • 10101010 - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    As I commented below, it is not even fully possible with Windows 10 Enterprise to disable data mining. Microsoft's new business model for Windows is selling people, not selling product.
  • LordanSS - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    Yeah.... the reason why I'm still sporting Win7 is because I am not in favor of M$'s practices regarding data mining and my personal privacy.

    I wonder how come companies actually put up with this.

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