How Microsoft, Intel and AMD are Pushing Windows 7 Users to Windows 10

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Windows 10 usage

As far as we know, Microsoft has used nearly every play in the book to get Windows 7 users – and those of any older version of Windows – to migrate to Windows 10. We also know that, so far, nothing has worked very well. Microsoft is now trying a new approach, using hardware (specifically, processors) to stop critical security updates from reaching Windows 7 devices and other machines running any Windows version except Windows 10.

And they’re not mincing their words: “Without Microsoft support, you will no longer receive security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software that can steal your personal information.”

That’s what their “Windows lifecycle fact sheet” says. In other words, if you’re not on Windows 10, you’re basically being exposed to the will and whim of cybercriminals from about 200 different countries around the world, including your own. Or maybe it’s just 3. Who knows.

We’ve also known for some time now that newer processors would not work with older versions of Windows, so it comes as no surprise that users are now seeing this on their machines. Microsoft has a highly influential relationship with most desktop PC chipmakers like Intel, AMD and so on, because that’s where these companies make a lot of money. And it’s all dependent on Windows.

Using this superior position, Microsoft is now forcing Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and users of other versions to upgrade to Windows 10. Chipmakers don’t care what version of Windows you’re using as long as you keep buying devices that has their silicon in them, but they care because Microsoft tells them to care.

On the surface, it would appear as if a big technology company were dictating terms to suppliers and users alike about what to do. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that this is actually a big technology company dictating terms to suppliers and users alike about what to do.

Take a moment.

Yes, there’s no other explanation for it. Windows 10 is so critical to Microsoft’s licensing revenues and the entire ecosystem that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has now built around it, that it is imperative that at least half of all desktop users move to Windows 10.

It’s almost as if Microsoft can’t move forward with its operating system agenda without this one crucial event – the mass migration of at least 50 percent of Windows device users to the new OS.

I say 50 percent because that’s the all-important 1 billion device milestone that Microsoft was targeting in the first place. When Microsoft announced (proudly, I should add) in August 2016 that 400 million devices were running on Windows 10, that figure represented a little over 20 percent of the world’s desktop users.

Today, Windows 10 adoption is stuck at about 25 percent; which, if you use a little math, works out to 500 million devices. That implies that a 50 percent adoption would mean 1 billion devices running on Windows 10. That’s about right because there are currently 2+ billion desktop devices around the world, most of them on Windows.

The Redmond giant has done everything – and I mean everything short of holding a gun to our collective heads – to get us to move to Windows 10. They’ve made it more secure; they’ve made privacy more transparent (a little bit, anyway); they’ve added awesome features; they’ve added a host of tools to make it easier and more attractive for enterprise customers to migrate to Windows 10; they’ve stopped tech support for some older Windows versions; they’ve stopped security updates for others; they’ve even killed off Windows Vista, which about 15 million people (mostly business users) still use.

But nothing they’ve done so far has managed to move the needle in any significant way on Windows 10 adoption in recent months.

The most recent method Microsoft is using is to stop supporting older Windows versions using their influence with chip makers. It’s not that Intel’s Kaby Lake or AMD’s Ryzen can’t support Windows 7. Of course not. The fact is, they won’t. This is an active, collaborative decision by large multinational companies to force consumers in the direction they want them to take – plain and simple.

We have a lot – a lot – of admiration for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: for the decisions he’s taken that have made Microsoft far less dependent on Windows and Office licensing revenues than ever before. He champions the cause of cloud, and he’s the one behind Microsoft’s new mobility push. But as far as Windows 10 adoption goes, he must be extremely frustrated that it isn’t gaining the kind of traction he and everyone else thought it would.

It’s a tough spot to be in for the CEO of the maker of the world’s most-used desktop operating system, no doubt. But it now appears that even Nadella can’t crack this code. As a result, his company is literally bullying Windows users to take up Windows 10.

It’s easy for me to talk. I’ll be the first to admit that. And I’ll even go one step further and say that these strong-arm methods are quite possibly the only way to deal with stubborn consumers who just won’t adopt a new product no matter how great it is.

And if you think about it, as I suspect you do from time to time, it’s very similar to the problem that Apple is currently facing. Not on the iOS front, of course, because more than 80 percent of iOS devices that are compatible with iOS 10.x are already on it, but on the devices front. Because Apple makes products that are so solid that they last for years, it’s tough to get people to replace their old iPhones because they’re still as smooth as butter after 4, 5 years. And it’s the same for iPads and MacBooks and iMacs, and that is hitting their sales numbers in a bad way, as we saw in 2016.

And, in a sense, that’s the same problem with Windows 7. It’s a great operating system that few people want to leave behind. And because of that, it is the single biggest challenge to Windows 10 adoption on a large scale.

Eventually – and by that I mean once older devices die out – every Windows device will necessarily have to be on Windows 10. But that would take too long, and Microsoft wants high adoption rates now, not five to seven years down the road.

How long will the “processor gambit” take to convince people to move from Windows 7 to Windows 10? There’s no way of knowing that right now, but every month there is data released about Windows 7 and Windows 10 usage. Let’s see if April 2017 tells a different story.

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