Windows 7 will reach the midpoint of its support lifetime this week when it shifts from what Microsoft calls "mainstream" to "extended" support.
The world's most popular personal computer operating system exits mainstream support on Tuesday, Jan. 13. After that, although Microsoft will continue to issue security updates to all users for another five years, it will not add new features to Windows 7, and any non-security fixes -- such as reliability and stability updates -- will be issued only to organizations that have signed support contracts.
Next week thus marks the halfway point of Windows 7's decade-long support stretch, which ends Jan. 14, 2020.
Windows 7 will continue to run, of course: The migration into extended support does not make it inoperable.
Windows 7's user share is at a near-record high. In December, it accounted for 56% of all personal computer operating systems, and 62% of all versions of Windows. Since the debut of Windows 8, its purported successor, Windows 7 has increased its user share by about 12 percentage points, representing a gain of 26%.
That increasing share may not bother Microsoft, but it should businesses that decommissioned Windows XP PCs and replaced them with Windows 7 systems, ignoring Windows 8. With Windows 7's life half over, those enterprises now have five years to complete a transition to another OS, probably Windows 10, the upgrade Microsoft will release this fall.
Five months ago, in fact, Gartner began urging corporations to start their post-Windows 7 planning if they wanted to prevent a recurrence of the end of Windows XP's support, when many had to either hustle to make the support deadline, or worse, continued running the aged OS after patching ended.
"While this feels like it's a long way off, organizations must start planning now," said Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Stephen Kleynhans in August.
And the failure of Windows 8 to win enterprise hearts and minds has created one oddity: Even though Windows 7 has made middle age, Microsoft continues to let OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) sell PCs running the business edition.
Microsoft has yet to name an end date for OEM sales of machines powered by Windows 7 Professional. But because it has promised a 12-month notice, those PCs can still be sold at least until early January 2016, when the OS has but four years of life left.
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