Don't start hoarding copies of Windows 7 just yet

Microsoft has ended retail sales of Windows 7, but the OS is still available through various channels to users and enterprises

Without any fanfare, Microsoft pulled the plug on retail sales of Windows 7 back in October. But Windows 8 haters needn't panic, as Windows 7 licenses are still to be found through a variety of channels.

Microsoft's current policy is to end retail sales of an OS one year after its successor comes on the market. But OEM sales, in which copies of the OS are supplied to PC manufacturers, end two years after a new version comes on the market.

To that end, digital copies of Windows 7 are no longer available from Microsoft's online store, but retailers like Newegg or Tiger Direct are still stocking physical copies of the retail and system builder's editions of Windows 7 -- and ought to be doing so for many more months.

The same goes for enterprises with volume licensing agreements, which will also have access to Windows 7 for plenty of time to come.

Even if Microsoft's current policy didn't call for offering Windows 7 to OEMs for another year, it would find it difficult not to do so because of the sheer level of demand for the OS. Toshiba, for instance, claims some 99 percent of its business sales are Windows 7 machines, despite the occasional "pockets of the corporate population" that use Windows 8.

Another way to get copies of Windows 7 is to exercise "downgrade" rights from Windows 8 Pro (sorry, not available for other versions of Windows 8). People who purchased a system with Windows 8.1 Pro preinstalled can, if they choose, "downgrade" to Windows 7 Pro (or even Windows Vista Business, if you're feeling particularly self-hating). Enterprises also have "downgrade" rights for any Windows 8 licenses they might have purchased.

The support lifecycle for Windows 7 is also set to continue for a good while longer. Mainstream support for Windows 7 ends in January 2015, which is when Microsoft will stop providing free incident support, warranty claims, or honoring feature requests for the product. Windows 7 extended support, which includes security updates and paid incident support, will end in January 2020.

As a percentage of Windows users, Windows 8's growth is actually on a par with Windows XP in its early days. But its near-nonexistent adoption by enterprises all but guarantees that Windows 7 will stick around as an enterprise fixture -- maybe even to the same degree that Windows XP has.

This story, "Don't start hoarding copies of Windows 7 just yet," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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