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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  • Phcompguy - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    How... DARE you respond with logic, common sense and a base level understanding of the x86 architecture. The appropriate response in this instance is to forget the history of the last 25+ years of the x86 architecture and the fact that ancient operating systems still boot on modern hardware today, make outlandish claims about Microsoft forcing Enterprises to upgrade by not permitting old Windows versions booting on new hardware going forward, replace MS with M$ and Microsoft with Micro$oft so as to appear like you're 15 years old and living in your parents' basement and generally act like a total tool! (This comment thread was so silly, I felt the need to finally set up an account JUST to post this snarkey message, seriously people, get a grip).

    In all seriousness though, the author really could have done a better job making clear that this will only impact support for new CPU features, not the ability to boot old OS' on new hardware.
  • Reflex - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    It is not only here, I'm seeing this on several other top websites, like Ars Technica. I don't know why nobody is applying critical thinking skills, or simply asking for clarification from Microsoft. I worked there for 11 years, almost entirely on Windows. This is not an actual change in policy, it was fairly uncommon for new CPU features to be backported once a new OS had been launched. All MS is doing is making explicit what was historically assumed.
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Yeah, that's what "end of mainstream support for Win 7" means. Afterwards MS will provide security updates but not implement new functionality, i.e. explicitly program support for new CPU features.
  • takeship - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    It's a little different than that though, as mainstream support for 8.1 was suppose to last through early 2018, and now 2015/2016 CPU features won't make that cut. Even if 7 & 8.1 will "work" on AMD and intrl chips, MS has announced that feature complete support is bring cut 2+ years short.
  • Reflex - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    Honestly that has always been the case though. DirectX, for instance, was not always backported to older versions of the OS, even when they were in mainstream support. As a result, while newer video cards would work fine on older versions of Windows, you would not gain access to newer features that required the new version of DirectX. This is substantially the same situation.
  • eddman - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Replacing MS with M$ is one of the most childish and moronic things I've ever come across. To think that they go into the trouble of holding the shift key to type a $ sign.
  • maximumGPU - Thursday, January 21, 2016 - link

    couldn't agree more!
  • Gadgety - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    @Reflex. Thank you for clarifying.
  • NetMage - Monday, January 18, 2016 - link

    That is demonstratably not true even today.
  • Pork@III - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Microsoft - blackmailer!

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