Millions of personal computers running at both the enterprise and consumer level have taken the plunge and upgraded to Microsoft Windows 10. For the most part, enterprises and consumers have been pleased with the upgrade and Microsoft has earned the right to consider the new operating system a general success. But that doesn't mean the company has given up on its stated goal of billions of devices running Windows 10.
For example, Microsoft has made it quite clear that it will support Intel's and AMD's next generation processors only with Windows 10. In other words, Microsoft will make no promises about the ability of those new CPUs to run Windows 7 or 8. Microsoft wants to put Windows 7 and 8 in its metaphorical rearview mirror and this is just another way to accomplish that mission.
Here's your hat...
On the one hand, you can understand why Microsoft is committing to the next generation processors. Intel's new processor architecture, code named Kaby Lake, will include new features and technologies that promise to increase the overall performance of devices by significant, and noticeable, percentages. AMD's new processor architecture, code named Zen, makes similar promises.
Optimizing Windows 10 to take advantage of these new technologies will require a substantial bit of time and effort. The kind of time and effort Microsoft does not want to duplicate for what it considers old, on their way out, operating systems like Windows 7 and Windows 8.
On the other hand, according to the latest information available from Netmarketshare, about 56% of all personal computers as of August 2016 are still running Windows 7, 8.0, or 8.1. Windows 10 has penetrated only about 23% of the available market so far. That means there is a long way to go before the majority of enterprises can be said to have fully deployed Windows 10.
Those statistics mean that Microsoft will not be able to completely abandon previously released operating systems, no matter how much it wishes it could. The company will have to at least help develop drivers and other behind-the-scenes protocols to account for new processor technologies, even if the older operating systems in question are not optimized.
The latest, greatest next generation processors from both Intel and AMD will be supported and optimized only for Windows 10. While this makes sense as a general business strategy for Microsoft, it is likely to cause problems for enterprises and consumers who stubbornly cling to older operating systems like Windows 7 and Windows 8.
However, before you get too upset, keep in mind that the general overall architecture of these processors will not change. Kaby Lake and Zen processors will still be based on the x86 architecture, which means that the chips should still run Windows 7 and 8 devices. There may need to be some compensating software in the form of drivers or protocol layers to make it possible, but it can be, and likely will be, done. Of course, performance is likely to suffer because of it.
That is why Microsoft wants to make it perfectly clear that the best experience with the soon-to-arrive next generation processors is going to require Windows 10. The writing is on the wall—as far as Microsoft is concerned, Windows 10 is the primary operating system. All earlier versions of Windows are second-class operating systems and will be treated that way going forward. Can your enterprise afford to continue running second-tier software? Are you sure?
- Windows 10: The smart person's guide (Updated)
- The end is near: Say goodbye to the Windows 10 free upgrade
- Windows 10 one year on: Has it been a success for Microsoft?
- Microsoft to end support for Windows 7 and 8 on new PC hardware
Are you still running Windows 7 or 8? If so, why? Share your opinions with fellow TechRepublic members.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.