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Microsoft extend support for Windows and Office 365

In a blog post on September 6, 2018, Microsoft announced several revisions to current support policies for Windows and Office 365 –which should all be positive for customers.

Microsoft product support has long been the subject of conversation, and it seems to be a hotter topic than ever. Whether it’s the impending end of support for products such as Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7, the faster support cadence introduced with Windows 10, or the end of interoperability between certain products – most organisations find themselves impacted by at least one change.

Windows 10

The new faster support cycle introduced with Windows 10 caused quite a lot of confusion and angst, and it has seen several changes over the last couple of years. Changes to the naming convention, the length of support, when updates are released, and more have all been introduced during the life of Windows 10.

As it stands, new versions of Windows 10 are targeted to be released in March and September each year. Microsoft say “targeted” as they may become available slightly earlier/later but will still be referred to as the “March” and “September” releases.

All “currently supported feature updates” of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education will now be supported for 30 months from their release date. This new 30-month support cycle is also being extended to all future updates…that are targeted as September.

All future updates that are targeted as March will continue to receive 18 months of support,

as will all future releases for Windows 10 Home and Pro. Windows 10 LTSB* (Long Term Servicing Branch) will continue to be supported for 10 years, with new releases expected every 3 years.

*Technically renamed LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel) but many Microsoft documents still refer to LTSB.

Support end dates for currently released Windows 10 versions

Version Availability End of support: Home & Pro End of support: Enterprise & Education
Windows 10, 1607 August 2, 2016 April 10, 2018 April 9, 2019
Windows 10, 1703 April 5, 2017 October 9, 2018 October 8, 2019
Windows 10, 1709 October 17, 2017 April 9, 2019 April 14, 2020
Windows 10, 1803 April 30, 2018 November 12, 2019 November 10, 2020

Support end dates for future releases of Windows 10 versions (projected)

Version Availability End of Support: Home & Pro End of support: Enterprise & Education
Windows 10, 1809 September 2018 March 2020 March 2021
Windows 10, 1903 March 2019 September 2020 September 2020
Windows 10, 1909 September 2019 March 2021 March 2022
Windows 10, 2003 March 2020 September 2021 September 2021

The September releases giving 30 months of support means organisations can stay on a single build for 2.5 years (which isn’t far from the old Windows release schedule of every 3 years) while for those who want to deploy more regularly, the 18-month cadence of the March releases allows them to do just that.

Windows 7

Windows 7 leaves extended support on January 14, 2020 but Microsoft have announced they will offer paid “Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU)” for 3 years, until January 2023.

They will be available to Volume Licensing customers with Windows 7 Pro and/or Windows 7 Enterprise. The ESU will be priced per-device and the cost will increase each year, with discounts available for organisations with:

  • Windows Software Assurance
  • Windows 10 Enterprise
  • Windows 10 Education

Office 365

Office 365 Pro Plus

In February 2018 Microsoft announced that Office 365 Pro Plus would, as of January 2020, no longer be supported on:

  • Windows 8.1 and older
  • Windows Server 2016

These changes have now been changed. Office 365 Pro Plus will now be supported as follow:

  • Windows 7 – January 2023*
  • Windows 8.1 – January 2023
  • Windows Server 2016 – October 2025

*For organisations who purchase the Extended Support Updates (ESU)

Office 2016 connectivity

It was also announced that, as of October 13, 2020, only Office clients in mainstream support would be able to access Office 365 services such as Exchange Online.

This meant only Office 365 Pro Plus and Office 2019 clients would be eligible, as Office 2016 mainstream support ends on – you guessed it – October 13, 2020.

I’ve spoken to several companies since this announcement who have said an Office upgrade within that timeframe simply wasn’t going to be feasible – which gave rise to some tricky questions for them internally. Well good news – it seems Microsoft have been having similar conversations:

  • Office 2016 clients can continue connecting to Office 365 services until October 2023

Conclusion

Microsoft have clearly been listening to customer feedback – that they simply weren’t giving organisations enough time to move to the newer platforms – and that is great. The old Microsoft probably wouldn’t have done it, that’s for sure.

On the other hand, there are two potential negatives I can see:

  • It’s becoming hard for organisations to track when support ends for their key products
  • How much attention will people pay to future support announcements? “If they’ve moved it once, they’ll move it again” will surely be heard within customers?

Ideally Microsoft would take this feedback on board before announcing the initial end of support – giving people a longer run up to make the changes necessary and eliminating the confusion that inevitably occurs when things are modified.

I have wondered if it’s all part of their plan– giving people a deadline to aim for, getting them to focus on the upgrades etc., but I don’t think there has been enough time between announcements for this to be the case. It seems more like the strength of customer feedback has caused them to change their minds which, ultimately, is a positive thing.

Further reading

Microsoft announcement : https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2018/09/06/helping-customers-shift-to-a-modern-desktop/

Microsoft Windows 10 support page: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/13853/windows-lifecycle-fact-sheet

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About Rich Gibbons

Rich has been in the world of IT and software licensing since 2003, having been a software sales manager for a VAR, a Microsoft licensing endorsed trainer, and now an ITAM analyst looking at software licensing and cloud.

A Northerner renowned for his shirts, Rich is a big Hip-Hop head, and loves travel, football in general (specifically MUFC), baseball, Marvel, and reading as many books as possible. Finding ways to combine all of these with ITAM & software licensing is always fun!

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