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Aug 17 2016

Microsoft Updates “Silicon Support Policy”

Microsoft's journey towards modernization largely centers on becoming a more agile, responsive and predictable software vendor and business partner. While this is generally a good idea, some of its efforts have caused concern among users who feel that the reformation process is going too far too fast. Case in point: the company's so-called "silicon support policy."

In a blog post released last week, Shad Larsen – Microsoft's Director of Windows Business Planning – recanted previous company statements about support periods for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 installations on devices equipped with sixth-generation Intel® Core™ processors (aka Skylake) that are being used by enterprise customers. According to Larsen, these installations will now be supported until the operating systems reach their official end-of-life dates. Affected Windows 7 systems, which are already on extended support, will continue to receive "all applicable security updates" until January 14, 2020. Desktops and laptops running Windows 8.1 stay on the mainstream support channel until January 9, 2018 and then move to extended support, which ends on January 10, 2023.

Unsurprising as it may be, Larsen's rather dry statement concludes a period of confusion that started some seven months ago. Back in January, Microsoft's EVP Windows and Devices Terry Myerson declared that the company had decided to allow both operating systems to run on all Intel® Core™ CPUs, including the then-new Skylakes. However, support for such combinations of older OS's and most recent processor technology would end after 18 months, in July 2017. As could be expected, this announcement didn't sit particularly well with the target group of enterprise customers it was directed at, for several main reasons. Number one, the plan sharply contrasted with Microsoft's official lifecycle and support policies as laid down on one of the company's most visited web pages. Number two, if carried out it would have put "Windows 7/8.1 on Skylake" users in a similar position as remaining users of Windows Vista with SP 2, for whom extended support will be terminated next April. And number three, many companies had only switched over from an older Windows version within the past two or three years and were unwilling to repeat the procedure yet again. The ensuing discussions prompted Microsoft to backpedal on the matter and add another 12 months to the planned transition period in March. Now Shad Larsen has finished the U-turn.

Comment
This isn't the first time Microsoft has corrected initial assertions made with regard to product capabilities and lifecycles, support periods etc. nor will it be the last. And of course, the company isn't the only leading ICT vendor that's ever had to deal with fallout from a slip of the tongue or the effects of miscalculated PR. Still it's a little worrying to see stuff like this happen to a flagship product, especially one as important as Windows, which sits at the very core of Microsoft's much-lauded and successful strategy of building a product ecosystem – without it, there'd be no need for a matching productivity suite and maybe not even a server system. In other words, whoever treats Windows carelessly lays the ax to the root of the company, and that's not something the modernized Microsoft, its business partners and customers are prepared for.

 
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