Early last year Microsoft ended all mainstream support for Windows 7, leading to many questions – especially from embedded hardware professionals – about the options for transitioning to a new operating system. With the release of Windows 10 in July of 2015 many users took the opportunity to upgrade to what many have called Microsoft’s best new product in years, but the popularity of Windows 7 means that there are still many users utilizing an older OS distribution, especially enterprise and IPC users who rely on long-term standardization on a given operating system to ensure consistent operation of their hardware. Now, the next phase of Microsoft’s end of life plan for Windows 7 is about to take effect, and we wanted to take the opportunity to explore the options for the remaining Win 7 devotees.
What’s Happening With Windows 7 Professional at the End of October 2016?
Back in October of 2014 we wrote about the end of sales for PCs pre-installed with Windows 7 Home and Windows 7 Ultimate. At the time Microsoft had not yet announced when they would similarly shutter pre-installed Windows 7 Pro sales, but that time has now come. On October 31st, 2016 Microsoft will stop providing their hardware manufacturing partners with Win 7 Pro licenses to install, which means that current users of that particular OS (as well as Windows 8.1, which is also reaching the end of its OEM availability) will need to explore other options the next time they need to order new PCs.
One glaring omission you’ll notice from the table above is Windows 7 for Embedded Devices. The embedded flavors of Microsoft’s OS offerings run on a different schedule than their more consumer-focused counterparts. Because they are intended for hardware builders who often require longer lifecycle products, the normal availability period for embedded OS options is most commonly around 15 years, meaning that Windows Embedded Standard 7 has close to 10 years left of expected pre-installed availability. Many dedicated device builders, including a large portion of our embedded PC clients, find the flexibility and customization options of Windows Embedded very appealing. For more information about the features and benefits of Windows 7 Embedded read our full breakdown here.
Windows End of Sales vs End of Support
It’s important to make the distinction between the end of sales for Windows 7 and the end of extended support. As we mentioned, mainstream support for Windows 7 ended last January, meaning that Microsoft no longer provides automatic non-security updates, that the company will no longer honor warranty claims, and that requests for new features and/or design changes will no longer be considered. If you want to ensure that your operating system remains up to date and stays in touch with current developments and feature releases, the end of mainstream support for any OS should be the point at which you make the transition to a new operating system. However, if you’re only concerned with receiving vital security hotfixes, then direct your attention to the Extended Support Dates provided by Microsoft. Up until those cutoffs, Microsoft will continue to offer updates if and when a security threat or operational problem is identified. As you can see from the table above, Microsoft will continue to offer extended support for Windows 7 until January 14, 2020.
The Difference Between Windows 7 Pro and Windows 7 Pro for Embedded Systems
So, what are your options for transitioning from Windows 7 Pro? Microsoft’s newest OS, Windows 10, has received positive reviews from users following its release last summer. We’ve previously covered a few of the key features of Windows 10, as well as the transition in naming convention that Microsoft has made from Windows Embedded to Windows IoT, but moving to Windows 10 isn’t necessarily your only choice.
As we mentioned above, Windows 7 Embedded will continue to be available from OEM hardware manufacturers, and many of the features and capabilities of Windows 7 Pro are available, a la carte, in Microsoft’s Windows 7 Pro for Embedded Systems offering. The majority of programs and software built for Windows 7 Pro will be compatible with Windows 7 Pro for Embedded Systems and, depending on the complexity of your deployment, making the transition can be as simple as creating an embedded version of your OS image. As we’ve discussed previously, one of the key advantages to an embedded OS is the ability to customize it to your specific needs, giving you the functionality you require without allocating system resources to unneeded applications. That said, it should be noted that Microsoft’s embedded offerings are intended for dedicated, embedded devices, so it’s in your best interest to discuss the details of your project and your operating system requirements with a hardware professional before making any OS decision.
If you have questions about your embedded hardware operating systems options, or if you need more information about how to best optimize your IPC project, contact one of our Solution Specialists.