Microsoft on Friday posted links to lists of almost 190 PCs eligible to receive Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 support until July 2017, making good on a promise the week before when it abruptly altered its operating system's support policy.
The lists of systems from Lenovo, Dell, HP and NEC -- the latter is Japan's largest PC maker -- included 185 devices when individual variations of each model line were tallied.
On Jan. 15, Microsoft unexpectedly announced that it would shorten support for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 on the newest PCs -- those equipped with Intel's sixth-generation Skylake processors -- by 30 months, and decreed that, going forward, next-generation processors will require the "latest Windows platform at that time for support."
That last meant Windows 10.
At the same time, Microsoft ruled that some new PCs powered by Skylake CPUs would be temporarily exempt from the no-support-for-Windows-7-and-8.1 directive. Instead, systems on the lists will receive all security updates (Windows 7) or security updates plus other fixes (Windows 8.1) through July 17, 2017.
After that date, only the "most critical" patches will be provided, and then only when they don't "risk the reliability or compatibility" of the older editions, giving Microsoft plenty of wiggle room to later decide what gets fixed.
Microsoft promised to issue a list of the supported-until-July-2017 PCs the following week, which it did Friday. Links to Lenovo's, Dell's, HP's and NEC's exempt PCs can be found on Microsoft's website. The OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will maintain their lists on their own sites.
The high numbers were deceptive. In many cases, one model was only slightly different than another. Dell's list, for instance, included two models each of its Latitude 12-in. and 15-in. notebooks, and three of its 14-in. Latitude laptop.
Not surprisingly, PCs on the exempt lists were those typically touted for businesses and largely consisted of traditional desktops and notebooks, although some 2-in-1 convertibles -- where the screen detaches from the keyboard or pivots in some way to make a slate-style device -- were included. Several variations of the Yoga, for example, were in evidence on Lenovo's list.
Microsoft told customers considering purchases of PCs from the lists that they should migrate to Windows 10 by the mid-2017 deadline.
The exempt lists provide a bridge between pre-Windows 10 environments and all-Windows 10 shops. To make it onto a list, a PC had been tested by Microsoft and its OEM partners to ensure it could be successfully upgraded to Windows 10. At the same time, the OEMs have committed to providing the necessary Windows 10 drivers, which Microsoft will deliver via Windows Update (which is also what patch management platforms, like WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) taps).
Before Microsoft and the OEMs released the lists, Steve Kleynhans, a Gartner analyst who focuses on Windows in the enterprise, acknowledged that the support policy changes would raise eyebrows -- and generate questions -- from Microsoft's commercial customers.
"We expect to hear from clients at some point, once they really have a chance to think through the implications," said Kleynhans in an interview a week ago. Reaction, Kleynhans said, would depend on how comprehensive the exempt lists were. "If it's just one or two devices from each OEM, that's not enough," he said.
Based on the device lists that were published, Microsoft and its partners will offer far more choices than Kleynhans' unacceptable basement number.