Microsoft is going to allow OEMs to continue to build and sell new PCs with Windows 7 Professional preinstalled beyond October 2014, the original date that would have been the cutoff under the company’s normal sales lifecycle. But OEMs won't be permitted to build and sell new PCs with the consumer editions of Windows 7 after October 31, 2014.
Microsoft officials went public with this change to Windows 7's lifecycle on February 14.
Back in December, Microsoft posted an update to its Windows 7 lifecycle page that indicated OEMs would not be able to sell PCs with Windows 7 preloaded after October 30, 2014. Shortly after posting that date, company officials said that information was published in error and that the actual date would be disclosed at a later time.
Today is that "later time." But while Microsoft officials are saying Windows 7 Pro will be available to OEMs for preload beyond the October 31, 2014, date, they are not yet specifying what the new cutoff date will be. Once that date is established, Microsoft will provide OEMs and customers with a year heads-up, officials said.
Here's Microsoft's updated chart with the new dates:
The extension of the Windows 7 Pro preload-cutoff date is not related to the looming end-of-support date for Windows XP, said Shad Larsen, senior business program manager, Windows business planning team. Nor is it because of business-customer reticence to adopt Windows 8, Larsen insisted.
Instead, Larsen said that because Windows 7 remains the largest part of Microsoft's installed base and is still in the midst of being deployed by business customers, Microsoft wants to make it easy and possible for businesses to continue to obtain it.
Microsoft ceased selling boxed copies of Windows 7 at retail on October 30, 2013. (Windows 7 Starter Edition was removed from the OEM channel in October 2012, around the time Windows 8 was released.)
Microsoft's end of support dates for Windows 7 remain the same. Mainstream, free support for Windows 7 ends on January 13, 2015, and extended support for Windows 7 ends January 14, 2020. After that 2020 date, Microsoft will no longer provide any fixes or updates, including security patches, for Windows 7.
Update: Larry Seltzer (a ZDNet colleague) asked a good question in the comments. He wondered how Microsoft could end mainstream support for Windows 7 Pro on January 13, 2015 if it would still be allowing OEMs to sell Windows 7 Pro on new machines at that time.
A Microsoft spokesperson replied: "Generally OEMs offer free warranty support for a period of time (usually 1 year) defined by the OEM. Because of this, there is a relatively small difference between mainstream support and extended support in the case of the OEM license because the OEM licensed versions of Windows continue to receive support directly from the OEM for the hardware and software." Paid, extended support will still be available from Microsoft, the spokesperson noted.
My ZDNet colleague Ed Bott has additional details on what today's change means for volume licensees, those seeking to make use of downgrade rights and more.