A widening gap between hardware and software
Microsoft says it’s doing its best to bridge the gap between users’ enthusiasm for new hardware with their attachment to old software. “What we wanted to address...was that customers are buying new hardware every day,” Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, in an interview.
Although PC sales continue to drop, they are still the platform of choice for most enterprises, and Windows comes with them. “We expect to see 300 million what we categorize as new PCs this year, and they want clarity as to where they can get fully-supported quality in those purchase decisions,” Myerson added.
Microsoft’s approach prioritizes keeping users on Windows first. If customers want the latest experience, they can turn to Windows 10. But now Microsoft and its partners have provided a “robust list of options” for customers to buy the latest hardware that will be patched and supported, while still running a tried-and-true OS, Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. “If you really value reliability and compatibility above all else, then there’s the option of buying hardware with the platform that was designed for it,” Myerson said.
The list of approved PCs includes several top brands:
- Dell Latitude 12
- Dell Latitude 13 7000 Ultrabook
- Dell XPS 13
- HP EliteBook Folio
- HP EliteBook 1040 G3
- Lenovo ThinkPad T460s
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
- Lenovo ThinkPad P70
The 18 months of support matters because running an aged OS running on cutting-edge hardware requires some finesse. Windows 7 was released in 2009, well before Intel even began designing the Skylake chips. That means Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 has certain expectations regarding hardware power states and interrupt processing, and any tweaks to the device drivers or firmware can cause issues, according to Microsoft. The support Microsoft and its partners will offer includes special testing to accommodate those quirks, as well as tools to help update the OS and BIOS once the customer decides to upgrade to Windows 10.
Myerson said Microsoft worked together with its PC partners, including Intel, to create the list of approved PCs, as well as to jointly test BIOS updates and drivers. So far, there’s no indication that the list of Skylake PCs will include consumer models. Support of the Skylake Windows 7/8.1 PCs will include validation of Windows Updates to reduce regressions like security concerns, the company said.
After the 18-month support timeframe ends on July 17, 2017, only the “most critical” Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 security updates will be addressed for those PCs, and “will be released if the update does not risk the reliability or compatibility of the Windows 7/8.1 platform on other devices,” Microsoft said in a blog post. Windows 7 remains on extended support until Jan. 14, 2020, and Windows 8.1 until Jan. 10, 2023.
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