Today is a big day for Windows. Microsoft drops support for Windows 7 almost 11 years after the first launch of the operating system with a flashy marketing campaign in New York City. “I am 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 correct the Windows Vista error. Windows 7 has certainly solved things with its new taskbar, Aero window manager, file libraries and much more.
In fact, Windows 7 became so popular that it took almost four years to pass Windows 10 in market share. Even today millions of PCs still run on Windows 7, and the operating system still runs on a huge 26 percent of all PCs according to data from Netmarketshare. Microsoft has tried for years to get people to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, but tens of millions of PCs now remain vulnerable to exploits and security issues.
Business and Education Windows 7 users can pay for comprehensive security updates, but for some it can be expensive. Comprehensive updates for Windows 7 Enterprise are around $ 25 per machine, and costs double to $ 50 per device in 2021 and again to $ 100 in 2022. It’s even worse for Windows 7 Pro users starting at $ 50 per machine and jump to $ 100 in 2021 and $ 200 in 2022. These costs will of course vary depending on the volume of PCs used in a company, but they will still be significant for larger companies.
Microsoft is reducing these costs with free year after retirement updates for Windows 7 customers with active Windows 10 subscriptions. However, that has not had any major consequences for the market share of Windows 7 lately.
Microsoft informed Windows 7 users in 2019 about the end of today’s support, so people who are still stuck with the operating system cannot say they have not been warned. On Wednesday, a full screen message will appear for Windows 7 users with the warning that systems are no longer supported. Microsoft is trying to convince existing users to upgrade to machines running Windows 10, a trend that caused the global PC market to have its first year of growth since 2011.
Despite the end of the support, Windows 7 still seems to have some life. It may take another year or two for Windows 7 to clearly fall below the 10 percent market share, especially when Google undertakes to support Chrome on Windows 7 until at least the middle of 2021. That causes Microsoft some problems for ongoing support . We have broken the software giant several times with the tradition for Windows XP, which issues public patches for the operating system after the end date of the support. Given the increase in ransomware attacks in recent years and their devastating effects, it is likely that we will see public Windows 7 security patches in the future.
The vast majority of this support headache comes from companies that do not always upgrade to the latest Windows releases. Windows Vista and Windows 8 were not really solid interim releases to which you could reliably upgrade, and that left most Windows XP or Windows 7 companies behind to prevent software problems and incompatibility. Windows 8 will not have the same problems when the support ends in 2023, because it only runs on less than 5 percent of all PCs.
Windows 10 has also attempted to address this end of the support issue with Microsoft’s large “Windows as a service” push. Businesses and consumers were given 18 months to move from one major Windows 10 update to another, and Microsoft has released two major updates each year. That has led to some complaints from companies, so Microsoft has now slowed the pace to 30 months of support for every major September update and 18 months for the March update. This does not affect consumers, who are only supported for 18 months per release, but these machines usually automatically upgrade to the latest Windows 10 release and are not the source of Microsoft support issues.
We have already reached multiple end dates of support for different releases of Windows 10 without major hitches, and three versions are set to reach the end of the service this year only. If companies upgrade regularly, Windows 10 may have solved some of Microsoft’s support issues for the future.
However, Windows as a service asks interesting questions about PC sales in the next decade. The end of the life of Windows 7 has caused the PC market to jump back in 2019, but with no “Windows 11” in mind, the PCs that companies are buying can last longer than ever before. Microsoft, Intel and PC OEMs hope that Surface and the ongoing pressure to improve hardware will convince companies and even consumers to upgrade. That did not happen immediately with the marketing campaign ‘PC does what?’ Four years ago, which focused on having people with older Windows 7 PCs upgrade to new hardware. There are probably millions of consumers still holding Windows 7 machines simply because they continue to work well for the basics.
Microsoft, Intel and others are now focused on folding laptops with two screens for 2020 and later. Microsoft is expanding its Windows 10X variant for this new hardware and we have started seeing some of the target devices announced last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It is still an early day 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 gigantic release of Windows as we have seen it in the past with Windows 10 or Windows 7, even for folding devices. Microsoft’s priorities have certainly shifted under CEO Satya Nadella. “The operating system is no longer the most important layer for us,” Nadella said last year at the launch of new Surface devices. Windows is still an important part of Microsoft’s activities, but it’s not its future. Microsoft embraces 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 its own company.
That transformation is underway and Microsoft is increasingly looking at the internet to work towards competing platforms. The end of Windows 7 is just another milestone in the history of Windows. It comes at the start of a new decade and marks the end of an era where Windows ruled everyone’s computing experience. How Windows adapts over the next decade may be the most important change for Microsoft in its 44-year history.