So it’s freakout time for some Windows users, particularly those who are buying new PCs, but don’t want to use Windows 10. But before I go into details, consider this: A large number of these users, and the same holds true for those who bought PCs with Windows 8 or 8.1, will simply erase the drives and downgrade to Windows 7.
From a business standpoint, it make plenty of sense. The enterprise wants to have consistency and reliability. Also, it’s more difficult from a support standpoint to have different PCs with different operating systems. So they may prepare a single disk image that is deployed whenever new machines are added to their networks. It doesn’t matter what OS or bundled software the PC arrived with. Once it’s reformatted, it’s a mirror image of other PCs in the network, and hence it can replace an existing PC as easy as you’d replace one toaster oven with another.
It may not eliminate PC support problems, and it doesn’t since PCs are still more complicated to support than Macs. Still, techs are working with a uniform, tested platform. But Microsoft is more interested in persuading as many Windows users as possible to switch to Windows 10. It doesn’t matter whether or not its new features are important to a customer, or even needed by that customer.
Last I heard a figure from Microsoft, some 200 million PCs have upgraded. That’s quite a number, but the stats I checked when writing this article indicated that the total adoption rate is 9.96%, after nearly six months on the market. It suddenly doesn’t seem so compelling. Despite being a free upgrade, the migration rate appears to have leveled off. Perhaps the new features aren’t impressing Microsoft’s business customers, on which it depends for most of its income.
So how does Microsoft improve the Windows 10 adoption rate? Evidently by forcing the issue.
Which takes us to a curious attempt to “clarify” the Windows support policy that specifies that, if you set up a new PC using the latest Intel chips, known as Skylake, you’ll be forced to run Windows 10; older versions of Windows are not supported.
Now that doesn’t mean every new PC, since Skylake chips first shipped in the fall of 2015. That means tens of millions of PCs that are still shipping are equipped with older Intel chips, mostly from the Broadwell family. Those PCs aren’t forced to use Windows 10, and this may, I suppose, dictate what models a company might purchase if they want to continue to use Windows 7, which has a 55.68% adoption rate. Remember Windows 7 was first released in 2009.
Imagine running an over six-year-old OS on a Mac.
Now for Mac users, this is not a new phenomenon. Macs come with the latest OS X, and downgrading is usually not possible; well, I suppose it’s possible if the Mac actually first shipped with the older OS. But since Apple has been updating OS X annually in recent years, that doesn’t take you very far back. At the same time, recent versions of OS X support a whole slew of Macs dating back all the way to 2007.
The end result is that, within months, the vast majority of Mac users are using the latest OS. Exceptions might include Macs that have to run apps that may not be compatible. I had that situation here for a while, where I kept my MacBook Pro running OS X Yosemite because one app needed for my workflow, The Levelator, was not compatible with El Capitan. The app applies a sophisticated normalizing algorithm to audio files, and can be run with a simple drag and drop. In short order, a third-party fix allowed the app to run, and the developers, who gave up support several years ago, decided to incorporate that fix in a new version at the urging of loyal users. So I updated the MacBook Pro to El Capitan.
Now Microsoft’s new policy has a loophole. Supposedly some Skylake devices will run Windows 7 and 8/8.1 for 18 months, and that list will be published by Microsoft. Seems the height of foolishness to me, and it goes against Microsoft’s traditional policy of supporting an OS for 10 years or somewhat more. Indeed, Windows 7 users shouldn’t have to be concerned about upgrading until January 14, 2020, when support expires. It’s January 10, 2023 for the various iterations of Windows 8. Or at least that’s the theory. Microsoft extended support for Windows XP, released in 2001, a number of times, and that might happen again if large numbers of users stick with Windows 7 despite the obstacles thrown in their faces by this new policy.
Besides, if the upgrade is free, what’s the upside? Well, first of all, companies who pay an annual support fee to Microsoft are technically paying for Windows 10 anyway. But Microsoft also wants to encourage developers to build more apps that leverage Windows 10 features, and an adoption rate of only 10% may not be sufficient to produce such apps in any great quantities.
Microsoft has another excuse, that, “For Windows 7 to run on any modern silicon, device divers and firmware need to emulate Windows 7’s expectations…which is challenging.”
In other words, Microsoft is abandoning a long-held policy with a reason that would routinely apply to any new chipset. Memories must be short. Unfortunately, this action may actually hurt sales of PC hardware with the latest chips, or at least those models that aren’t granted that 18-month reprieve. And the PC industry is already suffering from lower sales.
To be sure, PC bloggers aren’t happy with the turn of events, though I suppose Microsoft could always change the policy and allow more PCs with Skylake chips to run Windows 7 for a longer period of time. Let’s just see how it turns out.