Microsoft warns enterprises to upgrade to Windows 10 or be left behind

Mark Coppock

Microsoft is in a difficult position at the moment. The company needs Windows 10 to take off, both to meet their goal of a billion Windows 10 users and thus solidify their place in the market and to avoid negative press around Windows 10 adoption rates. Microsoft wants to talk about how 200 million people have installed Windows 10 in a little over five months, not how enterprises are putting off their Windows 10 migrations.

Therefore, Microsoft is looking for every angle to spur consumers and, perhaps more important, enterprises, to get Windows 10 installed already. One such angle is the close link between Windows and Intel’s CPUs. It’s always been true that Microsoft and Intel work very closely together to ensure that the latest version of Windows supports the latest Intel chipset innovations. Windows 10 is no different, as Microsoft attests in their Windows Blog post this morning:

We are particularly excited about the work we’ve done with Intel on their new 6th generation Intel Core processors (code named “Skylake”). Compared to Windows 7 PC’s, 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. We and our partners are continuing to invest, innovate, and update to drive continued performance improvements across Windows 10 and Skylake devices.

Microsoft quotes a number of Intel, OEM, and enterprise customers spokespersons who extol the virtues of Windows 10 and Skylake and the value of migrating to Windows 10. For example, here’s Lenovo:

Lenovo is committed to driving innovation and is inspired by the technology advances enabled by Windows 10 and 6th generation Intel Core processors. Our newest products, such as ThinkPad X1 and Lenovo YOGA, are designed to deliver significant new capabilities to customers around the world,” said Gerry Smith, COO Lenovo PC, Enterprise and Global Operations, executive vice president, Lenovo. “We applaud Microsoft’s commitment to helping all of their customers take advantage of the Windows operating system family and in particular, leveraging the latest innovations on new Windows 10 devices. We will continue to work alongside Microsoft and Intel to ensure customers maintain the highest level of confidence in the security, reliability and performance of devices running on Windows and Intel platforms.

And here’s Kimberly-Clark:

Windows 10 promises to provide us with the tools that we need to respond to today’s new security threats – right out of the box. The best part of Windows 10 is getting new features on our devices every few months, and monthly security updates. The newest technology is simply delivered to us – something we have never been able to do on our own in the past.” Dorothy Stephenson, Director, ITS – Kimberly-Clark

In short, Microsoft is saying, “You really want to upgrade to Windows 10, because that’s the only way you’ll be assured of using all of the technology that’s available to you.” At the same time, however, Microsoft can’t ignore those customers who, for whatever reason, don’t want to migrate just yet from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. For those folks, Microsoft is providing assurances that options exist to keep things running while Windows 10 migrations are being planned.

At the same time, we know many of these customers continue to rely on Windows 7 for its well understood reliability and compatibility. Windows 7 was designed nearly 10 years ago before any x86/x64 SOCs existed. 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, 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.

Ultimately, the bottom line is this: Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 support is time-limited, with the former supported for “security, reliability, and compatibility” through 2020, and Windows 8.1 through 2023. What an enterprise buys today will remain supported by Windows 7 and 8.1.

However, from here on out, you’ll need Windows 10 to leverage any new chipsets from the likes of Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm (a further hint that ARM support is in the cards for Windows 10). At the same time, Microsoft is severely limiting expectations regarding what customers can expect from Windows 7 and 8.1 devices even on Skylake:

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.

Yes, Microsoft is saying, your current machines will still run on Windows 7 and 8.1, but you really, really want to start switching over to Windows 10. This is Microsoft being “transparent” in setting expectations while continuing to push hard to get Windows 10 adopted right now. Microsoft stands by to help, they’re saying, but start taking those first steps today or you’ll be missing out.

On the one hand, we applaud Microsoft for being forthcoming and clear. That should help them avoid the kind of explosion that the company suffered with its ill-advised OneDrive fiasco. On the other hand, the company is being aggressive with pushing Windows 10, from bothersome tickles and downright heavy-handedness on the consumer (and now business side) with the “Get Windows 10” app and now a longish blog post letting enterprises know that the smart money is on migrating to Windows 10 sooner rather than later.

2016 is shaping up to be a fascinating year for Microsoft on all kinds of fronts. We’re looking forward to covering things for you as the technology industry continues its monumental shifts.