When large public companies have good news to share, they write a press release and put it on the wires so that the publications that cover them will blast that message out for everyone to read. When they have bad news to share, they publish a blog post late on a Friday afternoon before a long holiday weekend.
And when they have really bad news to share, they bury it at the end of an unrelated press release or blog post, hoping no one will notice.
Now that you're armed with that knowledge, I invite you to read this unsigned Microsoft support article, published today and titled "How we are maximizing value in Windows 10." There, in what's essentially a footnote, you will find this casual one-liner:
"The Windows 10 end-of-support date of October 14, 2025, is unchanged."
To the untrained eye, that's a fairly bland statement. If it's unchanged, it must not be news, right?
Allow me to translate for you: Many of Microsoft's customers are still running Windows 10. Some of them are doing so by choice; others are doing so because they have perfectly functional PC hardware that runs Windows 10 but doesn't meet Windows 11's strict compatibility requirements. For all of those PCs in all of those homes and offices, Microsoft is going to stop sending security updates in less than two years, when that end-of-support date rolls around. Those customers will have the difficult choice of continuing to use unsupported software, making them vulnerable to online attackers, or throwing away perfectly good hardware and paying for new PCs.
Many of those customers have made it clear to Microsoft that they're not happy about this decision. In California, the nonprofit public-interest group CALPIRG has written an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, asking him to rethink that policy, "Microsoft's decision to end support for Windows 10," they argue, "could cause the single biggest jump in junked computers ever, and make it impossible for Microsoft to hit their sustainability goals."
Microsoft's announcement today is the company's way of saying, "Nope. No extension. Sorry, not sorry."
As I've noted previously, Microsoft has painted itself into a very weird corner here, essentially competing with itself … and losing. The company says there are approximately 1.4 billion Windows PCs in use today. They won't break down how many are still running Windows 10, but third-party statistics suggest that the percentage is still well above 60%, and over 70% in some parts of the world. That's at least 800 million computers. Even if half of them are retired or upgraded in the next two years, that's still a staggering 400 million PCs.
Microsoft defenders might argue that Windows 10 has reached the end of its normal 10-year support lifecycle. Windows 7 didn't get a reprieve, and neither did Windows 8, so why should Windows 10 be treated differently? As I noted two years ago, "[I]n both of those instances, Microsoft could implore its customers to fix the problem by upgrading to a newer version of the Windows operating system.... That's not an option for customers running Windows 10 on hardware that doesn't meet the stringent hardware compatibility requirements of Windows 11. When October 2025 rolls around, those devices will have no Microsoft-supported migration path to a newer version."
So what choices are available for owners of PCs that can't be upgraded to Windows 11?
In a separate post, under the heading "What about Windows 11?" Microsoft has this advice for those customers: "Replace the ineligible Windows 10 devices with new Windows 11 Pro devices."
I suspect that Microsoft will offer corporate customers an escape hatch in the form of an option to pay for extended security updates. After Windows 7 support ended, the company did exactly that for three years. Enterprise administrators might grumble, but they will write those checks.
Unfortunately, that choice probably won't be on the table for the very large number of people running Windows 10 on PCs in homes and small businesses, who will probably just keep using their old operating system and ignoring Microsoft's increasingly shrill entreaties to replace their perfectly good computer. Windows 10 will continue working just as it always has, even after the end-of-support deadline passes. But it won't receive security updates, making this option increasingly dangerous and irresponsible.
The good news is that Microsoft's brief announcement today doesn't shut the door on a change of heart next year. As I wrote two years ago:
This mess is Microsoft's responsibility, and doing nothing to clean it up isn't an acceptable option.
There is an alternative, though: Microsoft could extend the support deadline for Windows 10 on hardware that isn't compatible with Windows 11.
The company did the same thing, under similar circumstances, in the Windows XP era, and it's a perfectly appropriate solution here. The good news is that Microsoft's spinmeisters have three years to come up with a press release that makes it sound like they planned this all along.
Just remember to publish that press release late on a Friday afternoon.