Using Windows 7 was meant to be free, but shortly after announcing new monthly charges for Windows 10, Microsoft MSFT +0.39% confirmed it would also be introducing monthly fees for Windows 7 and “the price will increase each year”. Understandably, there has been a lot of anger so let’s look at why has Microsoft done this, who it affects and what the future looks like for Windows 7 users...
News of the monthly fees was quietly announced near the bottom of a September 6th Microsoft blog post called “Helping customers shift to a modern desktop”. While the title may grate, look closely and there is actually one crumb of comfort.
The Bad News
Let’s get this out the way first: the blog post confirmed Microsoft is ending all support for Windows 7 on January 14th, 2020. Yes, that’s just 15 months away and it includes security updates, therefore opening the floodgates to hackers and rendering the operating system effectively useless.
Unless you pay.
As Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Office and Windows Marketing, explained: “[T]oday we are announcing that we will offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year.”
No pricing details were revealed (I suspect it’s a lot) and Spataro confirmed these would only be offered to customers running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterprise in Volume Licensing - aka large businesses. Consequently this excludes the vast majority of Windows 7 users, as the operating system still runs on almost 40% of computers worldwide (source).
For comparison, Microsoft supported Windows XP for 13 years (2001 to 2014) while Windows 7 will have been supported for just over 10 years (October 2009 to January 2020).
The Good News
In a word: transparency.
With Windows XP, Microsoft backtracked and pushed out updates after support officially ended. It also allowed users to perform a simple hack to continue updates until April 2019. Meanwhile, Microsoft offered bespoke deals behind closed doors to major companies for ongoing support.
But with Windows 7, there’s a hard line. Microsoft has been clear companies who are large enough to be part of its Volume Licensing program can pay for ongoing support, and it has been clear everyday users will have to look elsewhere. In other words: Windows 10.
It may be tough love (you’d think it was good business to keep such a popular OS going given hundreds of millions of Windows 7 users will run other Microsoft programs), but at least Microsoft isn’t drawing a line in the sand and then continually redrawing it as it did with Windows XP. There’s nothing worse than false hope.
New Microsoft, New Windows
Understandably, many Windows 7 users will be reluctant to jump to Windows 10. After all, they declined the opportunity when Windows 10 was free and there’s a lot less control on that platform than previous editions. So it seems unlikely the current starting price of $139 for an online download will appeal.
Note: free upgrades ended July 29th 2016. Some users have told me they have still been able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free with their Windows 7 keys, but this has not worked for me. The official stance from Microsoft is no more free upgrades.
For those steadfastly against Windows 10, a smart sideways move could be to Windows 8. The platform improved greatly with age and although Microsoft stopped sales in 2016, new copies can still be found online for minimal outlay and support runs until January 10th, 2023.
But ultimately, this is just another temporary escape and we have to accept Microsoft is a very different company now to the one which launched Windows XP, 7 and 8. It no longer describes Windows as a platform, but rather “as a service” and services come with fees.
Something Microsoft is now showing will apply to every version of Windows, new and old…