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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  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - link

    So you use what, a Blackberry from a decade ago? If you use a modern smartphone... guess you put up with data mining like everyone else then.
  • User.Name - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    It is reasonable that they would only want to support new hardware on Windows 10.
    The issues that I have with that, are that Windows 8.1 was supposed to be supported until 2018, and there is no way that I'll be installing Windows 10 on any of my machines until they provide comprehensive controls over data collection, and restore control over what drivers and updates are installed on the system.

    It should concern everyone that Microsoft refuses to get specific about what data they collect.
    If it's so harmless, there's no reason for them to hide what they're doing, or provide discrete controls for people to decide what information they are comfortable sending Microsoft. The majority will be leaving those controls at the default setting anyway.
    The article that you linked to seems to be nothing more than the typical "well everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn't Microsoft?" argument - which makes the assumption that everyone is using services like Facebook and always browses the web logged into a Google account, and doesn't see why having data collection built into the OS has the potential to be far more sinister than a web service you don't have to use.
  • haukionkannel - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    You know that win 7 and win8 also collect data... Win10 only did that move first and it has been updated to older oss too.
    Also for example Android collect data iOs collect data and so on... You have to go dos 5.0 and maybe be safe.
  • Notmyusualid - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    This reminds me of discussing with a Muslim the continued violence from Islam all over the world.... 'Well the Christians were once violent too!'.

    Well yes, but like mommy told you as a young boy, 'just because someone else did it, doesn't make it right for you to do it either.'

    Now off to your room!
  • Reflex - Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - link

    The Christians are still wildly violent. Both in the USA and outside of it. Its hardly a Muslim issue. Its a extremist issue.
  • name99 - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    What you say ("neither OS/X nor most Linux distributions release updates that let their releases from seven years ago support new hardware, right") is absolutely true. But Apple has been this way since the dawn of time. Every Mac you ever buy since I expect at least the mid-80s comes with the latest version of the OS and no ability to run earlier versions. (You MIGHT [possibly] now have that ability on a virtual machine, but Apple doesn't claim that you do, or care whether it works, especially since they also don't ship the virtual machine software.)

    Since they've never promised this feature, no-one has ever expected, or ever cried that it wasn't available.
    The real problem here, it seems, is that if you offer features, people expect those features for ever as part of the package deal they are buying (same way when you buy an iPhone, you expect to get iOS updates for maybe five years or more, even though Apple never promised that). If a company plans to break this sort of implicit contract, they REALLY ought to lay the groundwork first, to soften people up. Just announcing a change, with no earlier preparation, is asking for trouble.
    What MS should have done is to announce this sort of thing at a dev conference in 2013 or so ("BTW, we are planning to make this change with Win 10 in 2016 --- adjust your buying plans accordingly, and let us know any comments" [even if the comments are going to be ignored, at least listen --- every so often, in the stream of idiocy, there will be one really bright idea worth noting]).
  • haukionkannel - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    win7 and win8 will work fine with processors made in 2020... You only miss new features that are not invented yeat.
  • NetMage - Monday, January 18, 2016 - link

    I think that is an overly optimistic position - there are Windows 10 notebooks today that have poor Windows 7 support and others that claim Windows 7 support but aren't actually able to run it with stability. It would not be surprising if future services that aren't going to be supported by Microsoft also won't be tested by the vendors of even have drivers provided. Especially problematic are features involving sleep, hibernation and power savings.
  • BrokenCrayons - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    Ed Bott, the author of that article, is well known for his heavy bias in favour of Microsoft products. A healthy chunk of his personal income originates from sales of books that help people understand Microsoft's newest products and their sales are highest when new products are released so he has to help drive the market in order to enjoy a monetary reward. In addition to that fairly obvious conflict of interest, he's also been at the centre of a controversy where he was accused of accepting bribes from Microsoft that came to light in 2008. Here's a link:

    I'm genuinely surprised that after twenty plus years of slanted journalism that he's still got people buying into his rants as honest or genuinely representative of reality. It'll be a good day for technical journalism (and a bad one for Microsoft as he's the most skillful shill they keep in their back pocket) when he retires.

    To address Ed's claims directly though, he and Microsoft have already admitted that they collect telemetry on all Windows 10 machines and have retroactively incorporated some of that telemetry into Windows 7 and 8.x through various updates. While he claims that there's a distinction between spying and analytical collection, the bottom line that doesn't escape his heavy spin doctoring is that the data collection is indeed happening AND that there's no specific published listing of what each privacy slider setting does or doesn't enable Microsoft to collect. Nor do they list what's included in "basic telemetry that's collected for the improvement of the operating system" when all sliders are turned off. Things that improve the OS could be virtually anything if you're able to warp the language in your own mind. Regardless of whether or not a personal identity is included with the data, it's a bit alarming that Microsoft can and does reach into the system to monitor how many minutes you spend in a particular browser, how long you spend in a program, and what photos you're viewing or what the system's microphone picks up by being active (using Cortana voice interaction as an excuse to leave an open mic up). Furthermore, Microsoft doesn't explain what's in those 40MB encrypted packages that Win10 regularly pushes upstream back to their servers.

    Frankly, I find the whole thing creepy and makes Microsoft's products no longer a safe haven away from Google, Apple, Facebook, or any other company. It's disappointing that they've gone to that level of invasiveness and fear-mongering to drive sales for their bloody on-OS streetside software flea market.

    As for me, I'm happily using Linux, but I fear the day UEFI BIOSes are locked down with cert-based security (as an off switch for Secure BIOS is no longer required by Microsoft with the release of Win10 where it was before with 8.1 and below) and a lack of granting a cert for non-MS bootloaders like GRUB will lock Linux out of quite a lot of hardware. If that ever happens, I'm personally planning to move to Android devices. I've already got a rooted burner phone and bluetooth keyboard+touchpad that are good enough to be my only computing platform and I rather like minimalistic computing anyway so it'd not be a big leap to scoop up a droid tablet and abandon x86 computing altogether. If I'm going to be spied on, I'd prefer it be Google doing it instead of, pick your poison I suppose.

    TL;DR - Ed Bott's a biased, bought and paid for MS mouthpiece trying to spin a bad thing into something good.
  • Reflex - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link


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