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It doesn’t seem like that much time has gone by since the release of Windows 7, but free mainstream support for that operating system from Microsoft comes to an end on January 13, 2015. On July 2, 2014, MS Support posted a notification entitled “Products Reaching End of Support in the Second Half of 2014” (thanks to Mary Jo Foley and a recent ZDnet post for alerting me to this). Title notwithstanding, the second heading on page provides the lead-in for this discussion, and reads “Key Products Transitioning from Mainstream Support to Extended Support.” The explanation for Extended Support proffered there is very much worth repeating here, to help put this transition into its proper context:
Extended Support lasts for 5 years and includes security updates at no cost, and paid hotfix support. Additionally, Microsoft will not accept requests for design changes or new features during the Extended Support phase.
The following screen cap shows a list of Windows 7 products moving to extended support (for the complete list, which also includes specific releases of MS Dynamics, Exchange Server 2010, Windows Embedded and Phone, Windows Server 2008 including R2, and Windows Storage Server 2008 also including R2, please consult the notification page):
Any and all Windows 7 versions transition to Extended Support on 1/13/2015.
Does this mean that the end of life for Windows 7 is at hand? No, as the MS explanation clearly states, it still has 5 years of life left once it attains Extended Support status. But with the relentless forward march of technology continuing unabated after that, the requirement for paid hotfixes, and the absence of new features or design changes Windows 7 can’t help but be left behind in the face of new hardware and software that is certain to appear during that time window. Will enterprises want to risk being left behind to avoid migration? I have to believe the answer will shade from “Fine by us” as the 5-year-clock starts ticking, but enterprises will become increasingly less complacent — tending more toward “urgent” to “desperate” — as the 60-month window of ongoing but limited support for Windows 7 starts closing.
What does it all mean? For those enterprises who migrated to Win7 more than two years ago, it means they probably already expected to start planning the next migration at about that time (January 2015). For those who’ve completed their migrations (or haven’t yet done so) it means they must face a compressed migration schedule as their next technology lifecycle turns over.