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

    This has no meaningful impact on anyone, anywhere. Windows 7 will continue to boot fine on new CPU's. Feel free to go take your meds at any point here.
  • cjb110 - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    I don't expect anything <10 to make full use of latest or new chips, but I would expect it to work and I've no doubt it will. As I doubt either Intel or AMD will dramatically change the architecture of a pc, and Windows 7 machine will work on their new chips too.
  • r3loaded - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Good. I don't want 7 to become the new XP.
  • FunBunny2 - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    remember the days of WinTel monopoly? days of yore when Windoze would only work if it ran on the newest X86 chip? the symbiosis: M$ wrote cycle sucking software in order to justify Intel's evermore cycle producing chips. now that 99.44% of software (M$ or otherwise) was "good enough" on a decade or more old cpu, this is just an attempt to get back to that, but de jure, not just de facto.
  • Reflex - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Comments like these are silly and historically ignorant. In the 90's Microsoft was tasked with writing an operating system that could handle an ever increasing amount of user scenarios, such as internet access, or true multi-tasking. Meanwhile the hardware target had the computing power equivalent of a fraction of the cell phone you keep in your pocket. It was not until about 2006 that the CPU became 'good enough' for continued changes in use cases, which was in no small part prompted by the fact that new user cases now tend to displace older use cases rather than be simply added to what you already do.

    Things have changed. If a brand new category of use is found for PC's that requires significant CPU cycles and runs concurrently with existing utilization of the PC, then you will once again have a race to create faster CPU's and a race for the operating systems and applications to accommodate it.
  • smartthanyou - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    The idea that companies won't get Windows 10 support on new hardware is incorrect. They won't get Windows 10 support on the latest hardware...there is a difference. Companies will still be able to buy new computers however those computers will have to be a generation or two back hardware-wise.

    I would say in most cases, that isn't a big problem.
  • eddman - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    You got it backwards. Windows 10 will be supported, regardless of the underlying hardware, as long as they meet the minimum requirements, which are quite low already.

    It's windows 7 and 8.1 that will not be able to support all the new hardware features, like new instructions, etc. in the upcoming CPU models. Nevertheless, they will still run fine, full support or not.
  • pivejasey - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    It just means that Windows 10 will be the same someday.

    It's a trap!
  • speculatrix - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    It's about time Microsoft abandoned 32 bit platforms, and refuse to install with less than 4GB RAM, and 32G of storage... We're not in the early 2010's any more.
  • Murloc - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    that's stupid, if it still works on old computers why force them into the trash, or worse force them to keep using outdated OSes?
    It'd be bad for people and environment and it'd be bad for MS.

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