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 - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    Most likely yes, those are supported via the driver model, which has not changed. Furthermore, add-in cards for such things exist which means there are hardware developers who will write drivers for them.
  • micksh - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    "All the way back to Windows 3.1" - From Windows 1.0, actually.
    I don't understand the reason for panic. Older Windows versions run just fine on latest CPUs without OS updates. Intel and AMD maintain full backward compatibility. It's up to OEM's to release drivers for old OS'es.
    Here is a video of upgrading 2010 PC from Windows 1.0 (released in 1985, 25 years before PC was made) to Windows 8:
  • Arnulf - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    "Intel and AMD maintain full backward compatibility."

    They do indeed. However chipset manufacturers may not care about supporting old (EoL) products on new OS. I have an Athlon X2 6000+ system that is running Windows7 just fine. I tried to install W10 Tech Preview (tried different builds) but the damn thing just kept BSODing halfway through installation process ... Motherboard is built around NForce (500 ?) chipset.

    So full compatibility from CPU vendors means very little when the hardware CPU is plugged into (the motherboard) isn't supported.
  • Phcompguy - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    That is.. literally.. the exact opposite issue to what this article is discussing.
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    That chip is not supported since Win 8.1. It's a bug in the implementation of some security instruction, for which MS provided a software work-around, but stopped to do so in Win 8.1 onwards.
  • NetMage - Monday, January 18, 2016 - link

    So much for the theory that Microsoft not officially supporting or testing a CPU is a non-issue.
  • Reflex - Monday, January 18, 2016 - link

    Not sure what your point is. The chipset has a defect and Microsoft chose not to compromise security with a workaround. While technically it is true that they could have chosen to support it specifically, in this instance it made more sense not to. Cases like this will be an issue going forward, but they were also issues in the past as pointed out here. These types of issues will not crop up any more or less than they did prior to Microsoft announcing this policy change.
  • eddman - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Well, the hate squads always look for an opportunity, and this provides aplenty.

    They are acting as if older OSes not supporting certain new hardware features was never a thing before.
  • Gadgety - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    @eddman. "Hate squads" I used to be a big proponent of everything Microsoft, but the nagware for W10 and 45 minutes of pure lies from Microsoft's own over-the-phone tech support, only for them to say hold on, and after 10 minutes of silence disconnect the call made me change my mind. I thought Microsoft was supposed to be about productivity, not obstructing it. It should be illegal to force customers having to do something, whether it is buying the product or finding a solution to turn the nagging off. Their act is a certain form of violence, taking away control and forcing people to act in order not to buy, or give in and install Windows10. I'm quite sure this comes down to the management at Microsoft, and management bonuses dependent on Windows 10 conversion and uptake. My point is of course only a tangent to the piece at hand here, and you are right, Microsoft has created a hate squad. I wouldn't be surprised to see Myerson or Nadella in a situation similar to this

    The money feels good
    And your life you like it well
    But surely your time will come
    As in heaven, as in hell
  • eddman - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    I don't care about MS; I just can't stand nonsensical, usually false hate comments on websites that add nothing to the information pool, be it about MS, apple or any other thing.

    I'd argue that the huge majority of hate squads have always been there. This is just another excuse to flame a bit more.

    I this case, MS are not forcing anyone to buy anything. Windows 7 and 8.1 will work on newer processors just fine.

    As for the nagging, I don't like it either, but there are ways to stop it, first and foremost by not installing/uninstalling and then hiding the update that is responsible. There is also a KB providing ways to block the whole thing.

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