Microsoft has issued a warning to customers that new generations of system hardware will be supported only by the latest version of Windows.
The move is to ensure stability for organisations still running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, according to the firm, but may be viewed by many as another measure aimed at forcing people to upgrade to Windows 10.
Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president for the Windows and Devices Group, outlined support policy changes affecting customers still running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 in a posting on the Windows Experience blog.
This will affect businesses and other organisations that settled on Windows 7 as their supported platform, many migrating to it after the ending of support for Windows XP two years ago.
Windows 7 shifted from the mainstream support phase of its lifecycle to extended support a year ago this month. Extended support means that Microsoft will continue to provide security updates, but will no longer add new features.
Myers reiterated Microsoft's commitment that Windows 7 will continue to be supported for security, reliability and compatibility until 14 January 2020, while Windows 8.1 will receive the same support until 10 January 2023.
However, he went on to explain that this commitment to stability for those still running legacy platforms means that Microsoft will find it difficult to update them with support for features introduced in any new generation of hardware platform.
"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," Myers said.
"Redesigning Windows 7 subsystems to embrace new generations of silicon would introduce churn into the Windows 7 code base, and would break this commitment."
Microsoft's new support policy therefore dictates that new generations of PC hardware platforms from Intel and other chip vendors will be supported only on the latest version of Windows available at the time.
The firm claimed that this will allow it to focus on deeper integration between Windows and any new silicon, while maintaining maximum reliability and compatibility for existing hardware and Windows versions.
"For example, Windows 10 will be the only supported Windows platform on Intel's upcoming Kaby Lake silicon, Qualcomm's upcoming 8996 silicon, and AMD's upcoming Bristol Ridge silicon," Myers said.
Many customers are still using Windows 7 as their standard corporate platform and will applaud Microsoft's decision to keep it as stable as possible, but others are likely to see this as further ratcheting up the pressure to upgrade.
As an example, customers running hardware based on the current Skylake 6th generation of Intel's platform have now been given an 18-month window to migrate to Windows 10.
"Through 17 July 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," Myers wrote.
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 and 8.1 platforms on other devices.
Microsoft ended all support for the original release of Windows 8 last week. This came a week after Microsoft claimed that Windows 10 is now active on over 200 million devices.
Meanwhile, Microsoft started pushing Windows 10 to users last year as an 'Optional Update' via the Windows Update service. This will be escalated to a 'Recommended Update' sometime this year, which means that installation will be triggered automatically, depending on the user's Windows Update settings.
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