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Microsoft Selling Windows 7 Support Extensions Starting April

Starting April 1, organizations can purchase Microsoft's Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan to extend the life of their Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) implementations.

The plan will let organizations using Windows 7 SP1 continue to get "Critical" and "Important" security patches for three years past Windows 7's Jan. 14, 2020 end-of-support date, although no technical support is provided by Microsoft.

Microsoft's Friday announcement possibly is Microsoft first disclosure of a sales date, although the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates program was first announced back in September.

Pricing for the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan wasn't described in the announcement, although Microsoft had previously indicated it would be sold on a "per-device basis and the price will increase each year."

A "Microsoft End of Support FAQ" document for Windows 7 and Office 2010, available for download at this page, stated that "organizations with Windows Enterprise Software Assurance or a Windows Enterprise E3 subscription license will receive advantageous pricing" on the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan, although details weren't provided. Software Assurance annuity coverage isn't required to use the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan.

"General availability" (GA) of the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan "will be announced in March" according to the FAQ document, although GA apparently hasn't been declared yet as of March 1. The GA date, meaning the date when a product is deemed "production-environment ready" by Microsoft, can be different from the sales date (typically by one month).

The Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan has aspects that are similar to an insurance plan in terms of buying into it and the costs. For instance, organizations buying into the plan at later stages won't be paying less. Here's how the FAQ expressed it:

While end of support for Windows 7 is January 14, 2020, organizations can purchase the ESU for the three years they are available. If an organization waits and purchases ESU for the first time, they will have to pay for preceding years as well since all security updates are cumulative starting January 2020.

Organizations using the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan will get a special multiple activation key (MAK) after they buy into the plan, according to the FAQ document:

Upon purchasing Windows 7 ESU, the organization will be provided with a multiple activation key (MAK), which can be used to deploy to the covered devices. This MAK key is independent of the Windows 7 activation and can work in parallel with a Key Management Service (KMS) activation deployment. Additional technical details will be provided in a TechNet article published at a later date.

The FAQ described buying into the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan as a "last resort" for organizations. Instead, Microsoft recommends that organizations perform a direct upgrade "to the latest feature update of Windows 10."

Windows 10 App Compatibility
Organizations experiencing application compatibility issues after an upgrade to Windows 10 can try to get help from the Desktop App Assure FastTrack program. However, organizations will need to have purchased "at least 150 licenses from the listed eligible [Microsoft 365] plans" to get such help, according to this Microsoft document.

Microsoft keeps a list of known compatible applications with Windows 10 at its "Ready for a Modern Desktop" page here.

Alternatively, as a "fallback," organizations can use the Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure service for Windows 7, which includes the three years of Extended Security Updates support (until January 2023) at no additional cost. That service will be "coming soon," according to Microsoft's Friday announcement. No dates were suggested.

Microsoft had described its Windows Virtual Desktop program back in September as a virtual desktop infrastructure solution using the Enterprise or Education editions of Windows 7 or Windows 10. Windows Virtual Desktop, which runs the client operating systems on Microsoft Azure datacenter infrastructure, supports remote access by end users to Office 365 ProPlus applications, Microsoft Store apps and "existing Windows line-of-business apps."

The Office Conundrum
Microsoft's Friday announcement also included a description on how the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan will affect Office 365 ProPlus support. Office 365 ProPlus is the suite of Office applications that are typically sold as part of Office 365 subscription plans.

Essentially, the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan extends Office 365 ProPlus support as well. Here's how the announcement described it:

Office 365 ProPlus will be supported on devices with active Windows 7 Extended Security Updates through January 2023. This means that customers who purchase the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates will be able to continue to run Office 365 ProPlus.

In September, Microsoft extended some of its Office support deadlines in a complex communication. Organizations using the perpetual-license Office 2016 product had initially faced getting cut off from connections to Office 365 services on October 2020, but Microsoft later extended that support by three years to October 2023.

Office 2019 perpetual-license users, though, are still getting an "extended support" phase that'll be truncated by three years, ending on Oct. 14, 2025. Office 2019 is only supported on Windows 10, Windows 10 Enterprise edition LTSC (long-term servicing channel) and Windows Server 2019. It's only installable via the click-to-run process (no MSI file is provided).

Modern Desktop Deployment Center
IT pros with time on their hands can check out Microsoft's "Modern Desktop Deployment Center" page. It's a series of Microsoft videos aiming to accompany the Modern Desktop Deployment and Management Lab Kit, which is a 150-GB downloadable kit that includes a trial version of Microsoft 365 Enterprise E5 software.

"Modern Desktop" is a Microsoft marketing term signifying the Windows 10 and Office 365 combination, as was explained during the September Microsoft Ignite conference. Also mentioned at that time was a future Microsoft Managed Desktop service offering, where Microsoft takes over the app deployment, update management and support aspects of running Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus for organizations. Microsoft hasn't said much about the Microsoft Managed Desktop since Ignite, and it's not clear when it might be available.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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