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Microsoft goes vague on Windows 10 support

Gregg Keizer | June 8, 2015
Talks about 'supported lifetime of the device,' but skimps on critical details.

Miller's reasoning? If Windows 10 is be supported for 10 years, as will be Windows 8 (which exits support in early 2023) and Windows 7 (early 2020), Microsoft wouldn't have brought up the "supported lifetime of the device" line to begin with.

There's always an exception

Leading credence to the you-don't-need-a-weatherman-to-know-which-way-the-wind-blows theory is the exception to the new tagline.

Devices running Windows Enterprise -- the edition sold only to customers via enterprise agreements (EAs), usually with the Software Assurance (SA) annuity upgrade -- are locked down onto what Microsoft calls the "long-term servicing branch" (LTSB) and have been the only ones definitively called out as receiving support for the usual decade.

Devices tied to the LTSB -- one of three update "tracks" Microsoft will maintain as part of its push toward a constant and regular refresh schedule -- will receive only security and other critical fixes. Those systems will not receive new features and functionality upgrades, although periodically the firm will roll-up changes into new LTSB builds that companies and organizations can optionally accept.

LTSB devices, Microsoft has said, will receive the usual 5 + 5 support.

"Look at the enterprise side," said Miller. "Those people pay a premium, so you can carry those people [with long-term support] because they're paying that premium."

What does '...supported lifetime of the device' mean?

Microsoft's not saying, at least yet. Last week, when asked to clarify Myerson's latest use of the phrase, specifically about security updates, Microsoft declined, as before.

"We will have more to share soon," a spokesperson said, using Redmond's boilerplate when the company doesn't care to throw light on a subject. But the company has left at least one clue what the phrase will mean.

In a late-April meeting with Wall Street analysts, CFO Amy Hood spelled out how Microsoft will defer revenue from Windows 10, a necessity because it has promised to provide new features and enhancements free to users of the OS.

Hood said the lifetime of the deferral will be based on the device type. "Estimated useful lives will be determined by form factor. As a result deferral periods may vary," a slide she showed analysts stated.

There's almost certainly a direct link between the length of the deferral and the supported lifetime of a Windows 10 device: The reason for the deferral, after all, is to account for the free updates Microsoft will provide.

Hood declined to tell Wall Street what the deferral and device lifetimes will be. "As we get closer to the impact, [we will] share the exact details on lifecycles, how long the time will be," she said.

Microsoft's use of "form factor" could mean it will set support and deferral periods based on the type of device: notebooks, 2-in-1s, desktops, tablets or smartphones. A tablet's support lifetime, for instance, could top out a two years, while a notebook's could be pegged at three and a desktop at four.


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