Today, Microsoft made several announcements that are designed to help companies migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10. The company has come to the realization that it can’t force modernization onto its clients and that having all of its customers migrate by next January is not going to happen.
Announced today were not only updates to Windows 10 that change the support window from 18 to 30 months for fall updates but also that Office 2016 support is being extended so that it doesn’t expire in 2020. Further, the company is also promising to fix any compatibility issues for any customer running Education or Enterprise SKUs.
The reason why Microsoft is making changes to the Office support cycle is to clear the deck to make migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 the only objective before January of 2020.
At the time of this post, according to Net Marketshare, Windows 7 has a market share of around 40% and Windows 10 is about 38%. According to this data, more companies need to migrate to the OS in the next 15 months than have in the previous 3 years of availability; the transition is not going to happen overnight.
This is a major concern for Microsoft, the company is trying desperately to avoid what happened when Windows XP support expired but if a large portion of the Windows 7 userbase does not migrate next year, the number of unsupported Windows devices in the world will jump significantly.
And while it’s easy to say “that’s not Microsoft’s problem”, it really is; they will be blamed when these unsupported devices become compromised and data is stolen.
This is why we see Microsoft making the aggressive changes today to the support policies for Windows 10 and Office. Unfortunately, it’s not clear if this is too late as it was over a year ago when I talked with nearly 50 companies about ‘rapid release’ and a majority of them said the pace of updates outweighed the benefits.
With the new cadence announced, companies can effectively update once every two years, which should appease most of the critics who were asking for only one update per year. But the bigger realization here is that as much weight as Microsoft has in the industry, it can’t force modernization with Windows.
For the industry, Windows is an appliance that they want to touch as little as possible, aside from updates once a month, and Microsoft must realize this if it hopes to succeed in moving users from 7 to 10. One of the primary reasons companies were refusing to upgrade to Windows 10 is that it would cause more overhead than Windows 7; not an easy pitch to management that you need a larger on-going budget if you upgrade to the new OS.
The only other question is what else Microsoft can do to help expedite the migration process? With the company promising to help anyone with an Enterprise/Education license troubleshoot compatibility, slowing the update cycle once upgraded, and removing the challenges of also migrating Office, the burden falls onto the companies still running Windows 7.