The end of Windows 7 is now in sight

Windows 7 boxesAs any good New Englander will tell you, it’s always good to stock up on necessities for the winter months — bread, milk, eggs — before they run out. Now, add Windows 7 to the necessity list: Microsoft has announced the final dates the vaunted operating system will be available for sale.

Windows 7, first released in October 2009, will no longer be available through retail sales of PCs with preinstalled versions after Oct. 31, 2014. Affected versions include Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate. No end-of-sales date of Windows 7 Professional through commercial channels has been set. Expectations are Microsoft will discontinue commercial sales sometime in early 2015 with the release of Windows 9.

The beginning of the end of Windows 7 actually started in October 2013, when Microsoft discontinued retail and commercial sales of the operating system independent of preinstalled PCs concurrent with the release of Windows 8.1.

Windows 7

Despite the increasing scarcity of Windows 7, the 5-year-old operating system remains the most popular version in the Windows franchise. According NetMarketShare, Windows 7 dominates the PC landscape, with 48 percent of the install base running the operating system. By comparison, only 10.6 percent of installed PCs are running Windows 8 and 8.1 combined. Windows XP, which reaches its end of life in April 2014, retains 29 percent of the installed base.

OS Market Share January 2014Of late, Microsoft has been urging Windows XP users to upgrade to a higher version before support ends this spring. Microsoft is giving XP users a reprieve, extending some security support through 2015.

What Microsoft really wants is more users to upgrade to Windows 8/8.1, the first operating system designed with a touch interface for tablets and convertibles. The operating system has struggled to catch on with consumers and commercial users.

While Microsoft claims Windows 8 is selling well, the market-share numbers put its adoption rate behind even that of Windows Vista, arguably the biggest unmitigated failure in the Windows franchise.

Solution providers report steady demand for Windows 7 PCs. Businesses continue to refresh their older machines — most notably Windows XP versions — with Windows 7 because of the familiarity of the interface and the stability of the platform. Windows 8, they say, is a much harder sell, especially given the operating system isn’t intuitive.

Microsoft is gradually restoring omitted features and functions to Windows 8, most notably the Start button, and giving users the ability to bypass the Modern (formerly “Metro”) interface in favor of the familiar desktop. However, many observers do not expect the Windows franchise to recover until Windows 9 is available.

Bottom line: If you like Windows 7, stock up now before the operating system disappears completely.

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