Today is a great day for Windows. Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7, almost 11 years after the first launch of the operating system with a striking marketing campaign in New York City. “I was a PC and Windows 7 was my idea,” was the message at the time, a clear nod to the fact that it was designed to fix the Windows Vista bug. Windows 7 certainly solved things, with its new taskbar, Aero window management, file libraries and much more.
Windows 7 became so popular, in fact, that Windows 10 took almost four years to pass its market share. Even today, millions of PCs are still running Windows 7, and the operating system is still running on 26 percent of all PCs according to Netmarketshare data. Microsoft spent years trying to get people to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, but tens of millions of PCs will now be vulnerable to security vulnerabilities and vulnerabilities.
Business and education Windows 7 users may pay for extended security updates, but it could be an expensive company for some. Extended updates for Windows 7 Enterprise cost approximately $ 25 per machine, and the cost doubles to $ 50 per device in 2021 and again to $ 100 in 2022. It is even worse for Windows 7 Pro users starting at $ 50 per machine and goes up to $ 100 in 2021 and $ 200 in 2022. These costs will vary naturally depending on the volume of PCs in use in a company, but they will still be important for larger companies.
Microsoft is reducing these costs with a free year of post-retirement updates for Windows 7 customers with active Windows 10 subscriptions. However, that hasn’t made a dent in the Windows 7 market share recently.
Microsoft has been notifying Windows 7 users throughout 2019 about the end of today’s support, so people who are still stuck in the operating system cannot say they have not been warned. On Wednesday, a full screen notification will appear for Windows 7 users, warning that the systems are no longer compatible. Microsoft is trying to convince existing users to upgrade to Windows 10 machines, a trend that caused the global PC market to have its first year of growth since 2011.
Despite the end of support, Windows 7 seems to still have some life. It could take a year or two more for Windows 7 to be firmly below 10 percent market share, especially when Google agrees to support Chrome on Windows 7 until at least mid-2021. That gives Microsoft some pain head for continuous support. We have already seen the software giant break the tradition several times for Windows XP, issuing public patches for the operating system after its support end date. Given the increase in ransomware attacks in recent years and their devastating effects, we are likely to see public security patches of Windows 7 in the future.
The vast majority of these support problems will come from companies that do not always update to the latest versions of Windows. Windows Vista and Windows 8 were not solid intermediate versions to which it could be updated reliably, and that left most companies with Windows XP or Windows 7 to avoid software problems and incompatibilities. Windows 8 will not have the same problems when its support ends in 2023, since it only runs on less than 5 percent of all PCs.
Windows 10 has also tried to combat this end-of-support problem with the great “Windows as a service” boost from Microsoft. Businesses and consumers received 18 months before they needed to move from one major update of Windows 10 to another, and Microsoft has released two major updates per year. That caused some company complaints, so Microsoft has reduced the pace to 30 months of support for every major update in September and 18 months for March. This will not affect consumers, who will only receive assistance for 18 months per version, but these machines are generally automatically updated to the latest version of Windows 10 and are not the source of Microsoft support issues.
We have already reached several support end dates for several versions of Windows 10 without major inconveniences, and three versions are scheduled to reach the end of the service only this year. If companies keep updating regularly, then Windows 10 may have really solved some of Microsoft’s support headaches for the future.
However, Windows as a service presents interesting questions about PC sales in the next decade. The end of the life of Windows 7 has helped the PC market recover in 2019, but without a “Windows 11” in sight, the PCs that companies are buying now could last longer than ever. The manufacturers of original equipment from Microsoft, Intel and PC expect Surface and the constant effort to improve hardware convince companies and even consumers to upgrade. That did not happen immediately with the marketing campaign “PC Does What?” Four years ago, it was intended to make people with older Windows 7 PCs upgrade to new hardware. There are probably still millions of consumers who cling to Windows 7 machines simply because they continue to work well for the basics.
Microsoft, Intel and others now focus on folding and dual-screen laptops by 2020 and beyond. Microsoft is developing its Windows 10X variant for this new hardware, and we have begun to see some target devices announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week. It is still early for this type of hardware, and Windows 10X will have to do a lot of work to make these devices shine.
We will probably never witness another giant Windows release as we have seen with Windows 10 or Windows 7 in the past, even for folding devices. Microsoft’s priorities have certainly changed under CEO Satya Nadella. “The operating system is no longer the most important layer for us,” Nadella explained in the launch of new Surface devices last year. Windows is still an important part of Microsoft’s business, but it is not the future. Microsoft is adopting Android, cross-platform software and services and the cloud. It is a company that increasingly embraces competitors such as Amazon, Samsung, Sony and Google to transform their own business.
That transformation is ongoing, and Microsoft is increasingly looking at the web to make its way into rival platforms. The end of Windows 7 is simply another milestone in the history of Windows. It reaches the beginning of a new decade and marks the end of an era in which Windows ruled everyone’s computing experiences. The way Windows adapts in the next decade could be the most significant change for Microsoft in its 44-year history.