Half of enterprise machines run Windows 10, as Windows 7’s end of life looms

Who doesn't love some new Windows?

On Microsoft’s earnings call for the first quarter of its 2019 financial year, CEO Satya Nadella said that “more than half of the commercial device installed base is on Windows 10.”

A Microsoft spokesperson “clarified” this to say, “based on Microsoft’s data, we can see that there are now more devices in the enterprise running Windows 10 than any other previous version of Windows.” That description offers a little more wriggle room; Windows 10 might only have a plurality share of enterprise systems rather than the majority share Nadella claimed. But either way, a substantial number of machines in the enterprise are currently running Windows 10.

Equally, however, it means that there’s a substantial number of machines not running Windows 10. Those systems are likely to be running Windows 7. Windows 7 is due to drop out of support in January 2020. Beyond that date, Windows 7 users will either have to pay for up to three years of patches or switch to Microsoft-hosted virtual machines, which will receive the three additional years of patching at no cost.

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Windows 10 support extended again: September releases now get 30 months

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In its continued efforts to encourage corporate customers to make the switch to Windows 10, Microsoft is shaking up its support and life cycle plans again. Support for some Windows 10 releases is being extended, and the company is offering new services to help detect and address compatibility issues should they arise.

The new policy builds on and extends the commitments made in February this year. Microsoft has settled on two annual feature updates (the “Semi-Annual Channel,” SAC) to Windows 10, one finalized in March (and delivered in April) and the other finalized in September (and delivered in October). Initially, the company promised 18 months of support for each feature update, a policy that would allow customers to defer deployment of feature updates or even skip some updates entirely. Going forward, the September releases are going to see even longer support periods; for Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education, each September release will receive 30 months of servicing. In principle, an organization that stuck to the September releases could go two years between feature updates.

Customers of Windows 10 Home, Pro, and Pro for Workstations will continue to receive only 18 months of updates for both March and September releases.

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Microsoft offers extended support for Windows, SQL 2008: but with a catch

Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2, as well as SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2, are due to move out of extended support over the next few years; SQL Server in July 2019, and Windows Server in January 2020. For organizations still using that software, this offers a few options: keep using the software and accept that it won’t receive any more security updates, migrate to newer equivalents that are still supported, or pay Microsoft for a custom support contract to continue to receive security updates beyond the cutoff dates.

Today, Microsoft added a fourth option: migrate to Azure. Microsoft is extending the support window by three years (until July 2022 for SQL Server, January 2023 for Windows Server) for workloads hosted on Azure in the cloud. This extended support means that customers that make the switch to the cloud will receive another three years of security fixes. After those three years are up, customers will be back to the original set of choices: be insecure, upgrade, or pay for a custom support contract.

Microsoft isn’t requiring customers to demonstrate that they have any kind of migration plan in place, and this support scheme incurs no additional costs beyond those already imposed by running software on Azure in the first place.

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Microsoft extends Windows 10 support period, but makes cuts to Office 2019

In the olden days, Microsoft’s support policy for Windows and Office was simple. Each release had five years of mainstream support, during which it received security updates, feature improvements, and stability fixes. That was followed by five more years of extended support, during which time it received security updates only.

With Windows 10 and “Windows-as-a-service,” that policy got all shaken up. After a period of refining the details, Microsoft settled on the current scheme. Mainstream Windows, Office, and Windows Server users are on the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC). They get two major servicing updates each year, with each version named with a two-digit year, two-digit month; the current version is 1709 because it was built in September 2017. Its successor will be built in March 2018, hence named 1803. Each of these releases receives 18 months of security updates, and each Office SAC release is only supported on supported Windows SAC releases.

For organizations that can’t or won’t use the SAC, there is also a Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC). Windows, Office, and Windows Server LTSC releases are made every three years and receive the traditional five years mainstream plus five years extended support policy.

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Microsoft drops the price of its standard support for Azure to $100 per month

 If you are a Microsoft Azure customer and want to get 24/7 access to technical and billing support for your company, as well as a response time of less than an hour for your critical issues, but you don’t want to pay $300 per month for this, today is your lucky day. Microsoft today announced that it’s dropping the price of Azure Standard Support from $300 per month to $100 per… Read More

Windows 10 support could end early on some Intel systems

When Microsoft introduced Windows 10 and its “Windows as a Service” model, the company promised Windows users a steady stream of updates to their machines. The days of being stuck on an old version of Windows would be forgotten; once you were on Windows 10, you’d have access to the latest and greatest forever. But that support came with a small footnote: you’d only receive updates for the “supported lifetime of the device” that you were using Windows 10 on.

The old system of Windows development, with substantial paid upgrades every three years or so, had many problems. Not least among those problems was how many people opted to stick with older versions of Windows, which was bad for both system security (old Windows has fewer security protections than new Windows) and software developers (old Windows APIs have wider market share than better, newer ones) alike. But the old system did afford a certain advantage when to hardware support: each new release of Windows represented an opportunity to revise the system specs that Windows demanded. A new major version of Windows could demand more memory, certain processor features, or a particular amount of disk space.

Moreover, if a given version of Windows worked on your hardware, you’d be assured that it would continue to receive security updates for a set period of time, thanks to the 5+5 support policy that Windows had: five years of security and feature updates, followed by five years of security-only updates. Exactly how many years of updates you’d get would, of course, depend on how far through that ten year cycle your purchase was made, but at least the end date was predictable and known ahead of time.

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Microsoft’s decision to patch Windows XP is a mistake

Once again, Microsoft has opted to patch the out-of-support Windows XP. Dan has written about the new patch, the circumstances around the flaws it addresses, and why Microsoft has chosen to protect Windows XP users. While Microsoft’s position is a tricky one, we argue in this post first published in 2014 that patching is the wrong decision: it sends a clear message to recalcitrant corporations that they can stick with Windows XP, insecure as it is, because if anything too serious is found, Microsoft will update it anyway. Windows 10 contains a wide range of defense-in-depth measures that will never be included in Windows XP: every time an organization resists upgrading to Microsoft’s latest operating system, it jeopardizes its own security.

Microsoft officially ended support of the twelve-and-a-half-year-old Windows XP operating system a few weeks ago. Except it apparently didn’t, because the company has included Windows XP in its off-cycle patch to fix an Internet Explorer zero-day that’s receiving some amount of in-the-wild exploitation. The unsupported operating system is, in fact, being supported.

Explaining its actions, Microsoft says that this patch is an “exception” because of the “proximity to the end of support for Windows XP.”

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Windows 10 gets major update as Windows Vista reaches its end of life

Today Windows Update sees the first mainstream release of the Windows 10 Creators Update and the last public patches, ever, for Windows Vista.

Released to manufacturing on November 8, 2006 and shipping to consumers on January 30, 2007, Windows Vista had a troubled development and a troubled life once it shipped. But it was an essential Windows release, laying the groundwork for Windows 7 and beyond. For all the criticism that Vista and Microsoft received, the company never really backtracked on the contentious aspects of the release. After a while, those aspects just stopped being contentious.

Troubled development

Windows Vista was originally meant to be grander in scope and ambition. Microsoft’s Longhorn project envisaged a new database-like file system known as WinFS, a radically new development model and set of APIs based on .NET, and a 3D accelerated user interface built using these APIs.

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