Microsoft Prepares to Kill Off Windows 7

The end of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows 7 is in sight. Next January, Microsoft's five-year old operating system will lose mainstream support. From that point on, Microsoft will no longer update Windows 7's design or implement new features.

But while Microsoft -- and its hardware partners like Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) -- would certainly prefer Windows 7-users to upgrade their current PCs to Windows 8-powered devices, the end of Windows 7's mainstream support, by itself, doesn't seem likely to trigger a massive PC upgrade cycle. It does, however, suggest the coming of something that could.

Another PC upgrade cycle?
All three companies -- Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft -- would benefit from an extended PC refresh cycle, as the recent end of Windows XP's extended support has benefited shareholders in all three firms. MSFT Chart

MSFT data by YCharts

Intel shares had risen more than 22% year-to-date before its second quarter earnings report, and added another 4% in after-hours trading on Tuesday. The chip giant boosted its revenue guidance back in June, then beat it in July, turning in a second quarter report that was much better than expected. Intel's PC division saw its revenue rise 6%.

Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft have had a similar experience. In May, Hewlett-Packard reported a quarter with its personal systems revenue rising 7% on better-than-expected demand for corporate PCs, while Microsoft noted back in April that corporate demand for its Windows operating system was strong.

It's not surprising that corporations are buying a lot of Windows-powered PCs right now: Windows XP, Microsoft's now ancient operating system, lost its extended support back in April. PCs powered by Windows XP are still functional, but are no longer supported by Microsoft in nearly any capacity, making them highly susceptible to malware and security exploits.

Mainstream support vs extended support
Windows 7, however, will only lose "mainstream" support in January -- something that Windows XP lost in 2009. Microsoft will continue to update Windows 7's security until it too loses extended support, but that won't be until 2020.

Users may get a better experience upgrading to a newer version of Windows, but they won't have to, and it's likely that many of them won't -- even though Windows XP lost its mainstream support in 2009, as many as a quarter of traditional PCs were still it running as of April.

Windows 9 incoming?
Yet, the end of Windows 7's mainstream support could still be a boon to Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard, in the sense that it could herald the coming of the next version of Windows. Windows XP, for example, lost mainstream support just a few months before Microsoft began offering Windows 7. If history repeats itself, Windows 9, then, will debut sometime in 2015.

Although Microsoft has bragged about the hundreds of millions of PCs currently running Windows 8, the operating system remains broadly unloved, with both consumers and Microsoft's hardware partners (including Hewlett-Packard with its short-lived Windows 7 "back by popular demand" promotion) increasingly looking to alternatives.

If Windows 9 can rejuvenate Microsoft's operating system, the businesses buying new PCs in 2014 could give way to consumers flocking back to Windows in 2015. Of course, that's assuming Windows 9 will be a success -- something that remains uncertain.

Nevertheless, the coming end of Windows 7 is an opportunity for the firms involved in the PC value chain -- Microsoft with its operating system, Intel with its processors, and Hewlett-Packard with the actual PCs. Certainly not as guaranteed as the recent Windows XP refresh, but a major opportunity.

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  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2014, at 10:23 AM, dilfarb wrote:

    With security patching available for another six years this provides utterly no impetus to upgrade to the disaster that is Windows 8. I'm sure manufacturers will continue to make machines running Win7 available (and HP is still selling machines this way, so not sure about your "short-term" comment).

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2014, at 11:54 AM, ConstableOdo wrote:

    Wow! Absolutely nothing wrong with Windows 7 for it to be killed off. It's a nice and solid OS. It could easily stick around for another 5 years or so as far as I'm concerned. I'm also using Windows 8.1 but I don't see any huge advantage to using it over Windows 7. It's just look different and I suppose there is some minor improvements deep inside but nothing that's a must have. I hate to bother to upgrade when everything is working fine for me. Unless MS can make a Windows simple upgrade that can be done perfectly without needing a clean install, I'm not moving.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2014, at 4:07 PM, moofer1972 wrote:

    How sad is it that the PC industry is dependent upon MS end-of-life-ing software in order to make a profit, instead of innovating an OS that people actually want? I run Windows 7, and until they come out something, ANYTHING better, that isn't avoided like some sort of electronic plague, I'm going to stick with it. Windows 8 is excrement.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2014, at 8:39 PM, kwright62 wrote:

    I'm in healthcare and the combination of Windows 8.1 and the Surface Pro 3 has absolutely freed me from a computer station. The speed and portability of this computer have definitely changed the way I work for the better.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2015, at 11:28 PM, zeroday1 wrote:

    I have to say that I am very displeased Microsoft is choosing to end full support. Windows 7 was predicated on an entirely fresh and amazingly seamless new experience for desktop users---something that I'm sure many of us end-users will agree was a mile-stone that we feel Microsoft finally got right with the entire OS-Build as a whole-------and now they won't even offer extended support for it after 5 more years?!

    I'm sorry but IMHO Microsoft has chosen to drop Windows 7 way too soon!

    After all the hiccups and bugs that plagued the many builds prior to the release of Win7, when it was released it was the breath of fresh air that many pc-users the world over had long been waiting for and whom, the majority of, have now eagerly adopted with open-arms because of it finally being stable enough to facilitate a decent desktop experience.

    Windows 7 still has a multitude of potential with various business and educational applications alike and is still highly favored among pc-users in the Windows community.

    After all the heartaches we also put up with regarding Windows Media Player-------that too seems to be finally void of the hang-ups and crashes so prevalent in the builds prior to Win 7.

    With all that Windows 7 still brings to the table and considering the fact that it has been aggressively adopted as a trust-worthy desktop operating system by a large percentage of residential and business-users alike--------it baffles me completely that Microsoft would choose to get rid of something that essentially works great and still offers plenty of modern capabilities through a build that has proven its stability and stood the test of time thus far.

    The technology Windows 7 is built upon is far superior to that of all its predecessors---yet somehow Microsoft expects us to believe that it’s absolutely necessary to now get rid of it?!

    I don't like this one bit!

    Microsoft has a history of dropping the ball right when things seem to be working out for the better-------and now it wants to drop one of the best working desktop operating systems it has ever created to date-------all for the sake of a few technological advances, that aren't even garnering that much appeal for the everyday computer user that just needs a solid system that works?!

    Instead of steam-rolling the perfectly fine-working Windows 7 product and effectively dismantling it so soon after its huge success-------wouldn't it have done some good to keep Windows 7 around for a lot longer than any of its shoddy predecessors, simply due to its amazing success alone?!-------Never mind the fact that it really is a solid operating system that, again, still has loads of potential.

    I think Microsoft is being very, very, and dare I say it again, Very Unfair with regard to the length of time it has sought not to keep Windows 7 as a viable contender and sustainable software product!

    This comes down to a few things in my opinion:

    1) Maybe the NSA really has a choke-hold on Microsoft, despite any fronts the company itself might maintain for the public in front of the camera's...

    2) Maybe Microsoft is finally realizing how lazy it is because it no longer wants to spend the necessary time to develop and test solid updates that don't crash and burn users systems as has been so typical of them in recent years...

    3) They really don't care all that much about the consumer but instead care more about their profitability at our expense and thus could care less if they keep forcing us to buy a new product, even though the one we already possess works just fine the way it is...

    Whatever response Microsoft will give to this reply, there is nothing it can say to convince me to change my mind from the fact that they've decided to pull the plug on this one way too soon...

    What a low-down dirty shame, if you ask me!

    And now, since I seem to not have any choice but to morn over this soon to be huge loss, I've already started working on my sincerest condolences for the up and coming death of my beloved Windows 7 platform...

    "I'm so sorry were like my new best friend in the whole world...but now I'm afraid you've been diagnosed with a disease called Microsoft-aphylococcus and you will soon die. Please know you will always be remembered for the good times we had...

    R.I.P. Windows 7 -- Rest In Peace : ( : ( : (

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Sam Mattera

Sam has a love of all things finance. He writes about tech stocks and consumer goods.

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