Microsoft Revises Windows CPU Support Policy For Post-Skylake Chips

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅18.01.2016 12:47:21

As outlined in a blog post last week Microsoft have quietly updated their Windows support terms as it pertains to new CPU silicon. Under the pretext of 'embracing silicon innovation', the post by Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, outlines to Enterprise customers of Microsoft's Windows OS that Microsoft will restrict support for future (i.e. post-Skylake) CPUs to the most current OS (i.e. Windows 10 at this time).

Touching on the fact that the kernel of Windows 7 was designed in an era prior to x86/x64 SOCs, the post makes the argument that incorporating new hardware features such as Credential Guard into the Win7 codebase would introduce unacceptable 'churn' to that codebase (i.e. have wide implications). As a result providing Enterprise-level support for multiple OS verions on new hardware platforms as well as older established ones simply isn't practical.

Support Policy Updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Customers

With Windows 7 now in extended support, we are focused on our commitment to deliver security, reliability, and compatibility to our installed base on their current systems. Redesigning Windows 7 subsystems to embrace new generations of silicon would introduce churn into the Windows 7 code base, and would break this commitment. Thus, today we are clarifying our Windows support policy:

- Windows 7 will continue to be supported for security, reliability, and compatibility through January 14, 2020 on previous generation silicon. Windows 8.1 will receive the same support through January 10, 2023. This includes most of the devices available for purchase today by consumers or enterprises.

- 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.

- Through July 17, 2017, Skylake devices on the supported list will also be supported with Windows 7 and 8.1. During the 18-month support period, these systems should be upgraded to Windows 10 to continue receiving support after the period ends. 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.

The key issue of this policy for Enterprise users will be on-going support for new hardware which can operate legacy applications that aren't compatible with newer Windows versions. IT forums are rife with stories from support personnel who are reluctant to push for an OS upgrade for fear that it would break business-critical software they've been using for years, and this policy update will reinforce the worry as well as retard the purchase of new platform (i.e. CPU + motherboard) hardware.

Although critical for core Enterprise business, the impact of the policy change is less predictable for individual consumers. Part of that is the classification of 'support' - will new platform hardware still functionally operate with older Windows installers, and will Windows Update for older Windows installations supply up-to-date third-party drivers? It's possible, although highly unlikely, that older versions of Windows will refuse to work at all with post-Skylake hardware depending on the feature set of the new silicon; this eventuality would hike up the price of a CPU & motherboard upgrade by the cost of a copy of the most recent Windows version.

The takeaway from this policy is that, to a greater extent than previously admitted, users of cutting edge platform hardware may see their performance and feature-set (including security and power-saving features) restricted if they haven't upgraded to the latest version of Windows. Most enthusiasts should have long-since come to terms with this, but this policy makes the concept pretty oblique for everyone.

By implication, in the near future Microsoft will switch their legacy support process so that it focuses on ensuring the smoothest transition to Windows 10, rather than continuing to make Windows 7/8/8.1 experiences the best they can be.

Certainly a policy to keep half an eye on, and one that's unlikely to improve ailing worldwide PC system sales.

SOURCE: Microsoft

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