Microsoft revealed today that it will allow PC makers to continue preinstalling Windows 7 on new consumer PCs through October 31, 2014. Left unsaid, however, is when it will cut off Windows 7 preinstalls on business PCs.
While Microsoft has always allowed PC makers to continue shipping previous versions of Windows on their hardware for some amount of time after the release of a new Windows version, this policy has come under scrutiny in recent months for two reasons.
First, Windows 8 is the most poorly received version of Windows since Windows Vista, and there are fears that if Microsoft doesn't fix this OS through a series of subsequent free updates, it may trigger a further decline in PC sales.
And second, the firm erroneously revealed that it had halted Windows 7 sales to PC makers late last year, triggering worries that Microsoft was forcing Windows 8 on its customers in a new way. In December, however, Microsoft announced that it hadn't really ceased sales to PC makers and that its Windows 7 lifecycle support page had been changed in error. At the time, it said that it had yet to determine the end of sales date for PCs with Windows 7 preinstalled.
Well, now it's made half of the decision, according to Mary Jo Foley. Microsoft will no longer allow PC makers to bundle Windows 7 on PCs aimed at consumers after October 31, 2014. But it's still not sure when it will halt the sale of Windows 7 Professional-based PCs to businesses. "Microsoft officials are saying Windows 7 Pro will be available to OEMs for preload beyond the October 31, 2014, date, [but] they are not yet specifying what the new cutoff date will be," she writes.
When you consider that Microsoft recently revealed that it has sold 200 million licenses to Windows 8, it doesn't take much of a mathematical leap to understand that many individuals and businesses are still buying Windows 7-based PCs as well. Over 300 million PCs were sold in 2013 alone, and if you go back to Windows 8's October 2012 release date, it's pretty clear that well over 100 million Windows 7 licenses were sold in this 16-month time period. So halting the sale of Windows 7 on new PCs isn't necessarily a panacea.
And with volume license customers able to downgrade to Windows 7 as long as that OS is supported, we're going to see more new Windows 7 usage for the foreseeable future, even if new business PC sales are halted. Collectively, this begs the question of whether Microsoft has a new Windows XP on its hands in Windows 7. I suspect that's exactly what's happening.