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Microsoft Truncating Windows Embedded Support on Intel Skylake Devices

Microsoft isn't shortening its Windows Server 2012 product lifecycle support policies for servers using Intel Skylake processors, but it is shortening them for Windows Embedded 7/8.1 devices using those chips.

Support for those operating systems came into question after Microsoft announced last month that it was truncating the software lifecycle support policies for Intel Skylake-based client PCs running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 operating systems. Microsoft explained in January that Windows 7/8.1 product support would extend just through July 17, 2017 for certain Skylake-based PCs kept on a list it maintains. After that date, the OS would be considered to be unsupported unless it was upgraded to Windows 10.

Typically, unsupported software doesn't get any more security updates from Microsoft. However, the company made and exception in this case, indicating it would continue to issue "the most critical" security updates after the July 17, 2017 date for those Skylake-based PCs, if functionality weren't compromised.

Would the use of Skylake processors have a similar effect on software lifecycle support in the case of Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, as well as Windows Embedded 7 and Windows Embedded 8.1? Microsoft did eventually provide answers to those questions, although not right away. Veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley picked up on the obscure policy signaling late last week. Here's how it sorts out.

Windows Embedded Support
Windows Embedded OSes will follow the same truncated pattern as Windows 7/8.1 client devices when using Skylake processors. Microsoft doesn't keep a list of Skylake-supported devices as it does for PCs, though.

The actual policy statement for Windows Embedded OSes can be found in this Microsoft support article. Microsoft offers a confusing statement, but it's essentially telling Windows Embedded 7/8.1 users of Skylake processors to move to Windows Embedded 10 by the July 17, 2017 date:

Through July 17, 2017, Skylake devices running Windows Embedded 7, 8 and 8.1 will be supported according to the lifecycle support policy for those products. During the 18-month support period, these systems should be upgraded to Windows 10 to continue receiving support after the period ends. After July 2017, the most critical security updates will be addressed for these configurations, and will be released if the update does not risk the reliability or compatibility of the Windows Embedded 7/8/8.1 platform on other devices.

When new processor technology gets introduced (that is, something newer than Intel's Skylake chips), Microsoft's Windows support policy will track with "the latest Windows platform at the time for support," according to Foley's article. Presumably that means organizations and individuals should move to Windows 10 by the July 2017 date, but it's kind of unclear.

Windows Server 2012 Support
Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 will follow the traditional Microsoft lifecycle product support policies if new Skylake-based server hardware is purchased within the Windows Server "mainstream support" phase. Mainstream support for those products will end on Jan. 9, 2018, per Microsoft's lifecycle support page.

Microsoft explained this notion in a Windows Server blog post late last week:

"Per our policy we would allow new system submissions for Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 to continue up to this date [Jan. 10, 2018], including the forthcoming Intel Xeon E3 (Skylake) family of processors."

This Jan. 10, 2018 is one day past the end date of "mainstream support" for both Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. Those OSes then have a subsequent five-year "extended support" lifecycle support phase.

Essentially, if server hardware with Skylake processors running Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2 is purchased up till the Jan. 10, 2018 date, then it gets traditional support (meaning it follows the extended support lifecycle at that point). Extended support ends on Jan. 10, 2023 for both of those Windows Server 2012 products.

Microsoft claims it didn't change its policy with Windows Server 2012. "We allow new systems to be submitted for certification up to the point when the OS transitions to extended support," it explained in the blog post.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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