Microsoft on Wednesday extended the Windows 8.1 Update migration deadline for businesses by three months, but again told consumers they had less than four weeks to make the move before the company shuts off their patch faucet.
The aggressive schedule was criticized by enterprise IT personnel who saw it as a repudiation of Microsoft's long-standing policy of giving customers 24 months to upgrade to a service pack. Although Windows 8.1 Update (Win8.1U) was not labeled as such, many saw similarities to Microsoft's service packs and believed Win8.1U should hew to that policy as a wannabe for Windows 8.1.
Microsoft didn't see it that way. In an email reply to questions from Computerworld last week, a company spokeswoman said, "Customer support in Windows 8.1 Update is no different than other versions of Windows and Microsoft products" when asked to explain the five-week deadline for installing Win8.1U. "Windows 8.1 Update is a cumulative update for Windows 8.1, and it does not reset the lifecycle support policy for Windows 8," she added.
True: Customers who have not yet upgraded from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 have until January 12, 2016 — 24-plus months from the former's 2012 release — to finish their migration before Microsoft will refuse to serve them new patches.
But Microsoft's contention that Win8.1U was no different than any other update, and so was not straying from past practice, was at best disingenuous: The time given for its migration was much shorter, and unlike most other deadlines the Redmond, Wash. developer issues, was sprung on users without advance notice.
If users of Windows 8.1 do not upgrade to Win8.1U within the limited time frame, they will not receive further security fixes, which is the same result as if they had not complied with the 24-month rule after a service pack's release, or, for that matter, if they do not replace Windows 8 with Windows 8.1 within the next 21 months.
Microsoft's best explanation for Win8.1U's required deployment came from another company spokesman, Brandon LeBlanc, who announced the extension for businesses. "Windows 8.1 Update ... reflects Microsoft's commitment to providing a more rapid cadence of feature improvements for our customers," LeBlanc wrote Wednesday.
Analysts articulated Microsoft's rationale in much the same way, although in more colorful language. "Microsoft is going to drag organizations and users into this new world of faster updates kicking and screaming," said Michael Silver of Gartner a week ago.
Customers now running Windows 8.1 and who use Windows Update to retrieve and install patches and other bug fixes must be on Win8.1U by May 13, the next regularly-scheduled Patch Tuesday, to receive security updates without interruption. That was left unchanged by Microsoft on Wednesday.
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