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Microsoft goes vague on Windows 10 support

Gregg Keizer | June 8, 2015
Talks about 'supported lifetime of the device,' but skimps on critical details.

Or Microsoft may define form factors by screen size, as it already does to some degree, separating smaller devices like smartphones and tinier tablets from everything else.

Hood's talk about revenue deferral also indicates that "supported lifetime of the device" will apply to all Windows 10 copies -- with the exception of Enterprise under LTSB -- not just those given away to consumers and small businesses in the one-year span of the free upgrade offer.

Why the magic phrase matters

While Microsoft has repeatedly said that the Windows 10 upgrade will be free to eligible Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, it has so far said that support -- both feature/functionality and security updates -- will not last the lifetime of the device, but the support lifetime.

Windows users are used to the very-long support timespans, and while there's an outside chance that all of Microsoft's verbiage may result with the same 10-year stretch, that seems unlikely, as Miller pointed out. Instead, free support -- the "free" part has also been stressed by Microsoft -- may be offered for less time, perhaps much less.

What happens after the free support ends is anyone's guess, as Microsoft has been close-mouthed about that, too. Microsoft could discontinue updates entirely once a device is out of its support lifecycle, or make updates available for a fee. The latter, however, might contradict a recent comment by Gabriel Aul, the chatty spokesman for Windows Insider, who regularly tweets answers to users' questions. On Friday, Aul said, "No annual fee for Windows 10."

Andrew Storms, vice president of security services at New Context, a San Francisco-based security consultancy, speculated that Microsoft might brandish the stick of security updates when support ends. No one should be surprised if that happens: Microsoft has often told customers that if they don't do A or B -- like migrate to Windows 8.1 Update, or dump Internet Explorer 8 -- they won't receive patches.

"I think any vendor will find it's to their advantage to get users to upgrade and they will also find a stick when time comes to get people to move," said Storms. "Or get people to pay extra for special attention."

Why won't Microsoft just say what Windows 10 support will be?

Miller took a stab at that one. "Either they're not sure [what it will be], or they're not excited about announcing bad news," he said of Microsoft's hesitancy to talk.

Storms thought Microsoft was hedging. "They needed to say something for competitive purposes, but they don't want to get caught up on anything too specific," he opined. "Microsoft bets that only a few people will still be wanting support in 10 years. When 10 years comes due, who knows what the landscape will look like?"

 

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