[Disclosure: Microsoft is a client of the author.]

Windows is pretty unique in the segment if you think about it. For most everything else we use, the hardware and software come from – and get support from – the same company. For most of our other devices, tools, equipment, etc., a major software update will only come when we buy a new system.

The good part of this is that our PCs are more up to date than our cars, appliances and other integrated products. The bad news is if we don’t want to update, we don’t have to – and a lot of us don’t like the update process and are sometimes back a couple of generations on the OS. (I won’t even mention the folks still using Windows XP, because they’re in their own unique and painful world at the moment.)

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Even smartphone software upgrades often require a new phone after one OS version, and only Tesla in the automotive space does major revisions to their operating systems and experience. So, the situation with Windows, at least with personal technology, is unique. However, it’s also somewhat painful, because older versions of the OS tend to be relatively un-secure compared to newer versions, and the upgrade path is best done linearly. Dropping too far back has serious risks.

Now, thanks to Windows 8’s poor reception, Microsoft has left Windows 7 in place for an extended period – but that time runs out in January.

FastTrack

To help users of Windows 7, Microsoft has released a tool called FastTrack. If you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably hoping enough of your peers won’t move and that Microsoft will extend the expiration date of this product. And that’s been a reasonable bet in the past.

But with the number of user-oriented threats multiplying and Windows 7 on a codebase that was never designed to resist the current threat level, the risks are increasingly more substantial – not least of which is the OEMs don’t want to support this old OS, either. Windows 7 is now 10 years old and in the prior decade we got Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Back then, the threats were much lower. And 10 years using the same OS is a long time, by any measurement.

Lucky for Windows 8

I doubt anyone connected with Windows 8 would call it lucky but thanks to it doing so badly, there’s a decent path from Windows 7 to 10. Typically, skipping ahead two versions of a Microsoft OS would be exceedingly painful. Not that the 7-to-10 upgrade path isn’t without pain, mind you.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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