Microsoft relents, extending support for Skylake PCs with older Windows versions

An attempt to force new PCs to run Windows 10 after July 2017 created a customer backlash instead

intel skylake core i7 6700k
Credit: Gordon Ung

Microsoft said today that it has tweaked its support options for customers who want to run the latest Intel Skylake processors on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Microsoft will extend its specialized support options for a year and offer more updates to those customers when its specialized support period expires.

A convoluted history

These are likely welcome changes to what Microsoft set up in January, when the company outlined a plan to provide specialized support for business customers who wanted to buy a PC powered by Intel's latest Skylake processor, but who also wanted to stick with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Microsoft agreed to support dozens of specific PCs, including gaming PCs from companies like Dell.

After July 2017, though, that support would end -- save for only the most critical updates -- and customers were expected to move to Windows 10. That was much too soon for enterprises, most of whom have only recently migrated to Windows 7.

The idea, from Microsoft's perspective, was that the growing gap between the aging Windows 7 OS and the latest Skylake hardware offered many opportunities for bugs and other failures, and they would only increase over time. Pushing customers to Windows 10 at the end of that transitional period would help mitigate this.

But after customer backlash, the support period for Windows 7/8.1 on Skylake will now end a year later, on July 17, 2018. After that, Microsoft said all critical security updates will be targeted for Skylake systems until extended support ends, a softening of the "most critical" language Microsoft used previously.

Keeping the customer happy

Jeremy Korst, the general manager of Windows marketing, said the company has "received feedback" on how it had handled the previous rollout -- negative feedback, presumably. "A key part of this update was our commitment to continuing to lead with a customer-first approach," he wrote in a blog post.

Customers, though, quickly picked up on the differences: Why did support for Skylake systems end in 2017, especially when extended support for Windows 7 on the previous Broadwell systems ended in 2020? And what did this "most critical" language actually mean for the updates those Skylake systems received? Older versions of Windows Server also runs on Skylake, but without the tangle of support options.

All these questions undoubtedly influenced Microsoft's revised stance. "This guidance is designed to help our customers purchase modern hardware with confidence, while continuing to manage their migrations to Windows 10," Korst wrote.

This story, "Microsoft relents, extending support for Skylake PCs with older Windows versions" was originally published by PCWorld.

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