Microsoft Finds Another Way to Force Windows 10 Upgrade on Businesses

Posted on January 15, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 0

Microsoft Finds Another Way to Force Windows 10 Upgrade on Businesses

As part of an announcement about Windows 10’s support for new hardware,Microsoft revealed some not-so-subtle changes to how it will support Windows 7 and 8.1 going forward. Long story short, it is using hardware support as yet another means of forcing customers to upgrade to Windows 10 faster than they might otherwise wish to.

As I’ve noted many times in the past, this behavior is mostly hard to justify, and is a far more serious issue, than the non-existent Windows 10 privacy issues that others carp about. For both consumers and now, increasingly, business users, Microsoft is making Windows 10 an offer you can’t refuse.

So what is Microsoft doing this week? No less than altering how it supports Windows 7 and 8.1 going forward, mid-stream, so that it can force more businesses to upgrade to Windows 10.

How are they doing that, you ask?

“Compared to Windows 7 PC’s, [Intels’ latest generation processor, chipset,] Skylake when combined with Windows 10, enables up to 30x better graphics and 3x the battery life – with the unmatched security of Credential Guard utilizing silicon supported virtualization,” Microsoft explains.

Which is fine: That’s a perfectly fine selling point for Windows 10.

But then we get to this.

“Windows 7 was designed nearly 10 years ago [and] before any x86/x64 SOCs existed,” the explanation continues. “For Windows 7 to run on any modern silicon, device drivers and firmware need to emulate Windows 7’s expectations for interrupt processing, bus support, and power states- which is challenging for WiFi [sic], graphics, security, and more. As partners make customizations to legacy device drivers, services, and firmware settings, customers are likely to see regressions with Windows 7 ongoing servicing.”

So Microsoft is altering its support policy, not just for one or two Windows versions, but for Windows in general. And I am reasonably sure this has never happened before.

Here are the changes Microsoft is announcing.

Going forward, new hardware generations will require the latest version of Windows. “As new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support,” Microsoft says. “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.

Only devices on the Skylake support list will be supported on Windows 7 and 8.1. And even then only through July 17, 2017. “During this new 18-month support period, these systems should be upgraded to Windows 10 to continue receiving support after the period ends,” Microsoft says. “After July 2017, the most critical Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 security updates will be addressed for these configurations, and will be released if the update does not risk the reliability or compatibility of the Windows 7/8.1 platform on other devices.”

But here’s what this means in the real world: Microsoft is not actually supporting Skylake generation hardware for Windows 7 and 8.1 at all. And that’s because there isn’t a business on earth that would go to the trouble of deploying on Skylake hardware now only to have to upgrade to Windows 10 in the near future. The net result is that only Windows 10 is really supported on Skylake, e.g. on new hardware.

Put another way, this isn’t Microsoft building Windows 7/8.1 “support” for Skylake. This is Microsoft building a guaranteed upgrade for Windows 10. In other words, this is more of the same: Microsoft pushing customers to Windows 10 by any means necessary.