Microsoft has gone back on an earlier decision to prematurely end support for Windows 7 and 8.1, in the firm’s latest concession to businesses in no rush to upgrade to Windows 10.

The tech giant yesterday announced it will support Windows 7 and 8.1 on PCs running on Intel Skylake processors until the official end of support for these operatings systems — January 2020 for Windows 7 and January 2023 for Windows 8.1.

It marks a reversal of Microsoft’s decision in January this year to phase out support for Windows 7 and 8.1 on PCs running on Intel Skylake processors ahead of the official date for the end of support. At the time, Microsoft said that support would end for Windows 7 and 8.1 systems running on Skylake processors in July 2017. It later pushed that date back to July 2018.

Microsoft’s u-turn means that Windows 7 and 8.1 systems running on Skylake will now get all security updates until support officially ends, as opposed to only receiving ‘critical’ updates.

The company’s change of heart was prompted by the need to give businesses more times to upgrade from Windows 7 and 8.1, said Shad Larsen, director of Windows Business Planning at Microsoft.

“We recognize that, in some instances, customers have a few systems that require longer deployment timeframes,” he said.

Microsoft’s decision is the latest in a series of measures designed to appeal to businesses that want to continue running Windows 7.

Earlier in the year, Microsoft announced the release of the Windows 7 SP1 convenience rollup, a collection of security and other updates for the seven-year-old operating system.

By most estimates, Windows 7 is by far the most popular Windows operating system and still used by most businesses today.

Microsoft’s Shad was also keen to stress that the decision to improve support for Windows 7 had not been prompted by lacklustre demand for Windows 10 among businesses.

“Enterprise customers are moving to Windows 10 faster than any version of Windows,” he said.

Analysts predict that from 2017 onwards businesses will begin moving to Windows 10 in earnest.

“2017 will be a big year for enterprise upgrades. Many organizations are already piloting Windows 10 devices, but in 2017 they will be driven by security concerns,” Forrester principal analyst JP Gownder told TechRepublic earlier this year, citing the OS’ support for security features such as application containerization, faster updates and anti-malware instructions built into Skylake processors.

Skylake processors were first released at the end of last year. There are still some restrictions when it comes to support for Windows 7 and 8.1 machines running on Skylake processors. To be eligible to continue receiving updates until the end of support, the Skylake PC will need to be one of the models on Microsoft’s list of approved machines.

Machines that use even newer processors will not receive updates for Windows 7 and 8.1, however, and will need to running Windows 10 to ensure continued support. These include processors in Intel’s Kabylake family, due before the end of 2016, AMD’s Bristol Ridge, due this year, and Qualcomm’s 8996/Snapdragon 820 architecture.

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