Why Microsoft Will Not Extend Windows 7 End-Of-Life

[This is mostly a summary of a discussion on Google Plus, that you can find here]

Recap: The world (or at least clueless tech journalists) was surprised to learn (once they bothered to look it up) that Microsoft will not extends Windows 7 end of “mainstream support” – which is scheduled for January 2015 (about 6 months from now). This was all planned way in advance – Microsoft basically committed to end “mainstream support” in 2015 by not releasing any service pack for Windows 7 since the beginning of 2010, instead they want people to move to the next version of their software. In most normal software markets, this is a no-brainer – who have heard of a Macintosh user still clinging to Mac OS X 10.7? or an Adobe Photoshop user who refuses to upgrade past CS3? But instead you now hear calls for Microsoft to extends Windows 7 an artificial life line, like it did with XP.

And here’s why XP will never happen again:

First, end of mainstream support doesn’t mean no more security patches – that is the real end-of-life for the operating system, and it is expected in January 2020 – 10 years after the last service pack. This is a very long time – for comparison, Apple usually stops providing any security update after about 4 years, and in the Linux world “Long Term Support” usually means 5 years1.

What mainstream support ending means is that no new features will be added to the operating system: no new software APIs and no new versions of bundled applications (such as Internet Explorer and Direct X).

Who cares?

From my talks with people around – people are not really troubled by this – either they are technologically inclined and can look for other solutions (such as install a more frequently updated browser instead of Internet Explorer), or they simply don’t care.

Now here’s the rub, and this is important so pay attention – there will be a test at the end:

Who needs new versions of Internet Explorer? Web developers. Who needs new versions of security APIs? Application developers. Who needs new versions of Direct X? Game developers.

Most people won’t upgrade until the last possible moment, but they will also not install alternative SDKs or replace built in applications with alternatives. With a very large percentage of their target audience without support for new technology, application developers are forced to use old APIs, do workarounds and support multiple backends. This is hard, and getting harder all the time, and as a result you – the consumer – get applications with less features, more bugs, less frequent updates that cost more. This is the one major reason developing for Windows sucks!

Microsoft knows this (because we told them, during the XP lifetime, again and again). Microsoft needs VASPs to continue to provide value on top of their platform, so they can’t ignore the needs of the developers – who have other options: Apple has 15~20% of the market, and Valve has shown the world that they can deliver software on Linux.

Now, do you really think Microsoft will let 7 enjoy the lengthy extended support that XP had, and continue to watch 3rd party developers abandon their platform?

As a Linux enthusiast, I hope so and think that would be great! It will be the best thing for Linux. But as a person who believes that Microsoft managers are not stupid, I don’t see it happening.

  1. BTW – Windows 8 Service Pack 1 will see support ended January 2016. You have been warned []

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