Windows might not receive the attention that it once did. But if you are doing real work with a notebook or PC right now, it’s likely that it is running Windows. For millions of workers, and IT staff that support the OS every day, Windows is still very much a reality.

So on that note, here’s a look at what is in store for Windows in the coming year…

Windows 7 reaches end-of-life

I think everyone knows by now that Windows 7 is reaching end-of-life this month. January 14th to be precise. There are several options for customers:

  1. Windows 10 Enterprise E5, Microsoft 365 E5, or Microsoft 365 E5 Security customers will get an additional year of Windows 7 SP1 support for free. After that, they will receive a fifty percent discount on Extended Security Updates (ESU) for Windows 7.
  2. Pay Microsoft for ESUs.
  3. Migrate to Windows 10.
  4. Use Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop service in the Azure cloud.

ESU pricing was announced early in 2019 and will be provided starting January 2020 through January 2023.

  • First year: Windows 7 Pro is $50 per device and Windows 7 Enterprise is $25.
  • Second year: Windows 7 Pro is $100 per device and Windows 7 Enterprise is $50 per device.
  • Third year: Windows 7 Pro is $200 per device and Windows 7 Enterprise is $100 per device.

Windows Virtual Desktop became generally available in 2019. It is a Desktop-as-a-Service platform that runs on a multiuser Windows 10 SKU that is unique to this service. Customers can also opt to use Windows 7 for up to three years. After which time, you will need to migrate to a Windows 10 image.

If you are still planning to migrate to Windows 10, check out Three Ways to Migrate to Windows 10 on Petri.

Windows 10X devices will start shipping

At a hardware event in New York last year, Microsoft announced that along with its partners, it would start shipping foldable dual-screen hardware. The Surface Neo is the first such device from Microsoft. And in the meantime, Lenovo has also announced the ThinkPad X1 Fold.

While Windows 10X will initially be limited to this new formfactor, information leaked that suggests Windows 10X will find its way to traditional notebooks in the future. Windows 10X has a simplified UI, improved security, and containerization of legacy Win32 apps.

Windows 10X is the version of Windows that most people want and need. Windows 10 as it stands today is too complex to be successfully managed and secured by all but the most capable of enterprises. But this isn’t the first time Microsoft has attempted such a project. Remember Windows RT and Windows 10 S Mode? Neither were runaway successes.

But this time we get backwards compatibility from the get-go. I.e., support for running Win32 apps. And let’s face it, that is what keeps the competition at bay. If it weren’t for the need to support all those legacy line-of-business apps, Windows might be seeing a much faster decline. Let’s hope that it’s third time lucky.

Windows 10 20H1 will be made generally available

Life is too short to be a free beta tester for Microsoft, so I don’t run an Insider build on a regular basis. That said, I do look from time-to-time to see what’s new in the latest build. And it’s time to do that now as we fast approach Microsoft signing off on 20H1, the next major feature update for Windows 10 due in spring 2020.

There has been a particularly long gestation period for Windows 10 20H1, likely due to supporting work required for Windows 10X. On that note, most of the changes are under the hood to improve reliability and performance. I will look at Windows 10 20H1 in more detail over the next few weeks on Petri, but here are a few features that in my opinion, will make 20H1 a worthwhile upgrade.

  • New Cortana experience with conversational UI.
  • Virtual desktops can be renamed and saved across reboots.
  • Make devices passwordless by only allowing Windows Hello for sign in.
  • Cloud Download – recover and reinstall Windows without an image or physical media.
  • Improved support for MSIX.
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) 2.

Windows Server will continue to support Azure

Windows Server largely exists now to support legacy workloads, Microsoft Azure, and the infrastructure required for Windows clients. While Windows Server has fallen out of the spotlight, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an important role to play. Windows Server is the platform on which Azure runs. At least, mainly. Most of the updates Microsoft has provided in Windows Server over the last five or six years have been about Azure.

DevOps and containerization are where it’s at right now. It’s all Kubernetes, Kubernetes, and some more Kubernetes. So, expect to see Microsoft continue to improve Kubernetes support in Windows Server and provide minor updates for supporting Azure and Azure Stack, Microsoft’s hybrid cloud computing solution.

What isn’t planned for 2020

From a UI perspective, Windows 10 is a hot mess. But I don’t believe that we’ll see Microsoft take any significant steps to address this in 2020. It’s not important enough for its enterprise client base. Much more pressing is to get Windows 10X out the door and keep the competition on the sidelines.

That said, UI changes in Windows 10X could be made available for Windows 10. But that might depend on how well Windows 10X is received. Time will tell. While I’d like to see Microsoft clean up the UI mess that is Windows 10 today, performance, reliability, and security are more important. Put the lipstick on last.

Finally, we still don’t know whether Microsoft will follow the major/minor feature update release schedule that was used in 2019. Remember that Windows 10 version 1909 was the first feature update not to contain any major new features. And it was provided as a simple cumulative update for users already running Windows 10 version 1903. All previous Windows 10 feature updates required a full OS upgrade.

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