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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  • Murloc - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    non-tech employees have issues adapting, but they're forced to adaptation when they buy new computers for the home, so they're already adapted to the new version of windows.

    So the incentive for the company to keep using windows is there.
  • YukaKun - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Unfortunately, MS has a big chunk of the Enterprise world grabbed by the balls with the MS Office ecosystem. They have tied MS Office to a LOT of basic operational functionality in big Corporations. I could give you a few terrifying examples of that, but MS makes the deal sweet. I don't know if those Corps would have a big say on how MS changes their OS policies in regards to the Enterprise world, but the consumers are screwed big time.

  • osxandwindows - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    Fuckyou, microsoft.
    You are forcing everyone to upgrade no matter what.
    Not providing support for new hardware for older versions of windows shows just how much customer friendly you really are.
    Does anyone see what happens when we have a monopoly?
    Microsoft knows.
  • Murloc - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    there is no monopoly, you can buy a mac or install linux if you prefer. The market will decide if this is THAT bad or not.
  • RBFL - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    If the Intel processors still support the same features as the older processors, won't the OS run?
  • jimbo2779 - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Yes, absolutely fine as they always have in the past.

    The thing they are saying here, that some are unable to see, is that new CPU features (new SSE, new encryption standards or whatever, new sleep states) will not be supported at the OS level.

    The older OS versions will still work with the CPUs and provide the same features that they have always had and will still receive the same security updates as you would expect. Anyone getting particularly upset about this is not reading the article fully.
  • sorten - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    I can't imagine this will be an issue. I've never been at a company that updated CPUs in their computers and left it on an older OS. For that matter, I've never seen a company's IT department replace CPUs at all. If it's time to move to new hardware they order a bunch of new OEM boxes and take the tax benefit. Desktop machines in particular have been commodity items for more than a decade.
  • Deelron - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    I've seen plenty of places that buys new (not fancy or anything, but still recently released) hardware but runs the older OS that is installed on every other machine in the building(s).
  • haukionkannel - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    And old os will run fine with new CPU because the CPU is backward comp-ability. No worry here even to corporate.
  • NetMage - Monday, January 18, 2016 - link

    If the recent Skylake bug requires an OS installed patch or change to work around, will Microsoft release a Windows 7 update to fix it?
    When the next generation Intel CPU needs custom microcode patching for a bug work around, you will be out of luck with Windows 7 on your new PC.

    Enterprises don't like guessing on how well officially unsupported software will run.

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