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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  • zero2dash - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    Somehow I think I'll be fine with my 4790K and Win7.
    If I want to build a computer, I'll just buy old tech used anyway.
    Low move but doesn't really matter to me either way.
  • Danvelopment - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    Seeing as Microsoft has made this announcement, and they're not currently a major player, I would guess that Microsoft is planning to extend the current driver platform on Windows Update to be all encompassing with newer drivers submitted to, tested, and approved by MS.

    If they do this, then there's two risks, risk one which is unlikely in the short term but possible in the long term, device manufacturers will stop supplying drivers to the general public and slipping drivers will become similar to Android (want a custom rom? Here's fourty steps and you have to steal drivers from another device).

    This will become particularly likely if MS does the second risk, they enforce much more restrictive driver installations, pretty much it almost MUST come from Windows Update and if it doesn't it throws a thousand warnings that you're risking security and asks you to accept the "Third Party Driver" terms and conditions.
  • Jerryg50 - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    It is an added complication when the new processors and hardware will not be able to work with the older operating systems. Then again, it is of very high risk to work with OS's that are no longer supported, especially for the security issues.

    As for the OS's the code structures are changing and becoming more advanced. This is especially for hardware interfacing, networking, and graphics. As for the hardware design, and the firmware becomes more complex in the fact they have to now support more extensive operations to cover for both new and old code structure.

    As for how the new OS's are working, I am becoming more convinced to move to Linux. With Linux there are also issues for the vast support that MS can offer. I would think it would be best to go with a commercial supported distribution of Linux rather than a free one. This way there would be a more direct support base.
  • yhselp - Monday, January 18, 2016 - link

    Is there any way for Microsoft to forcefully prevent motherboard makers from supporting older Windows OSes? Is there a reason for them to comply? Is it possible for MS to stop updates to an old OS once it detects it's running on a new CPU?
  • Svend Tveskæg - Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - link

    You can be sure, that when MS is giving away a fully fledged OS for free, you´re the commodity.

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