Microsoft has cut support from 10 years to just five for Windows 10 LTSC, the version the company had once touted to businesses as the operating system that provided for constant updating.
In a February 18 post on a Microsoft blog, Joe Lurie, Senior Director of Product Marketing, announced that the next iteration of Windows 10 LTSC, aka “Long-term Support Channel”, will be released in the second half of this year. This schedule means that the next LTSC will be indexed as Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2021 or Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2022.
As expected: almost two years ago, Microsoft announced that it would ship another LTSC “by the end of 2021”.
What was not expected: the massive reduction in support. “The Windows 10 LTSC client will move to a 5-year lifecycle, aligning with the changes made to the next perpetual version of Office,” Lurie wrote.
Previous editions of LTSC will not be affected. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2015, 2016, and 2019 will be supported until October 14, 2025, October 13, 2026, and January 9, 2029, respectively. (Prior to 2019, Microsoft labeled this version of Windows LTSB, for Long Term Services Directorate. Whether it’s a branch or a chain, they’ve all received at least a decade of support.)
Just like in the good old days
When Microsoft launched Windows 10 and its twice-a-year update scheme in mid-2015, the Redmond, Wash., Company described the Long-Term Edition as the version closest to Windows 7 then standard. Like Windows 7, Windows 10 LTSB would be supported for 10 years, with that stretch split into the same two five-year segments, Mainstream and Extended, as its ancestral operating system. The only regular updates it would receive would be monthly security patches, just like Windows 7.
The original LTSB was clearly a sop to critics who decried the accelerated development and pace of Windows 10 release. This rate of multiple releases each year – initially three per year, though Microsoft quickly narrowed that down to a pair – has This came as a shock to companies used to upgrading Windows every three years or so. Microsoft softened the change by offering LTSB, which featured the slower pace familiar to IT: upgrades that popped up every three years or so, with little to no feature changes in between, and an upgrade model. update that only provided security fixes.
Even at first, Microsoft felt that the LTSB was only suitable for a minority, designed for special situations, such as machines that simply shouldn’t be touched frequently, like those that control industrial systems or ATMs. But IT administrators have talked a lot about choosing LTSB for large swathes of their IT infrastructure. Simply put, they weren’t convinced of the need – or if they were, weren’t ready – to comply with Microsoft’s claim that the operating system was suddenly a service.
Microsoft lights up the long term
It didn’t take long for Microsoft to criticize LTSB / LTSC. Just nineteen months after deploying Windows 10, Microsoft effectively invalidated the benefits of LTSB by explaining that the long-term build would only support “the silicon currently released at the time of its release.” As new processors like Intel and AMD emerge, “support will be created through future versions of Windows 10 LTSB that customers can deploy for these systems.”
As processors changed, these changes would invalidate LTSB / LTSC support. It was a blow to the concept of long-term maintenance, analysts said.
Other steps Microsoft took to portray LTSB / LTSC as unattractive included the refusal to support locally installed Office 365 apps (formerly known as “Office 365 ProPlus”, but now called “Microsoft 365 Apps”) at from January 2020, as well as a public campaign that denigrated LTSB / LTSC.
In hindsight, this latest support removal should therefore come as no complete surprise to Microsoft’s business customers. It’s not like Microsoft has been promoting the channel (or the branch, or whatever it’s called). On the contrary, it’s slightly shocking that Microsoft didn’t just kill LTSC.
Even so, the reduction is still a bomb; it was arguably the biggest reduction in support Windows ever made.
But Microsoft, why?
While the primary rationale for the change in support Lurie mentioned last week was to align its lifecycle with that of “the next perpetual version of Office,” that wasn’t the only reason.
After reiterating Microsoft’s position that LTSC is “for specialized devices and scenarios that simply cannot accept changes or connect to the cloud” and therefore “require a long-term support channel” – which seems to argue for a longer duration of support, not shorter – Lurie said customers found the opposite when they disobeyed advice and used the PC version more or less typical of white-collar workers.
“Through extensive conversations with customers, we found that many of those who had previously installed an LTSC version for Information User workstations found that they did not need the full lifecycle. 10 years, ”said Lurie. “With the rapid and increasing pace of technological change, it’s difficult to get the up-to-date experience that customers expect when using a ten-year-old product.”
Nothing new there. Microsoft almost always cites customer feedback – that term is used broadly, which can even include telemetry data from Windows devices – when it changes product lifecycles and the support it “needs” to. to users. Microsoft also often relies on the comment line when making changes that might be rejected by customers.
But Lurie’s argument that it was difficult, if not impossible, to give customers “the up-to-date experience” with software over five years old ringed hollow. After all, those who chose LTSC did so because they enjoyed the long term stability on the last gloss, yes?
Microsoft tends to leave the unsaid obvious when changing policies, as it is here. LTSB / LTSC has always been anathema to a core tenet of Windows 10 that the operating system was ever-evolving Software as a Service and best licensed by subscription – not outright purchase and simple. It is no accident that LTSC does not correspond to a subscription-based worldview.
The reduction in support for Windows 10 LTSC is just part of Microsoft’s continued depreciation of perpetually licensed on-premises software. (LTSC is not a licensed product; it is just a way out of Windows 10 Enterprise, which can be licensed through a subscription, for example, in Microsoft 365, or through a traditional perpetual license. ) The reduction, then, can best be seen as a warning from Microsoft’s plan to possibly remove the option for client-side devices. A five-year loss of support today will almost certainly be followed by another corresponding reduction that removes the option.
When this happens, Microsoft will likely claim that LTSC has served its purpose – a bridge between an older release model and the current one – and therefore can be scrapped, although some customers are still keen on such an option.
You have been warned. Not by Computer world, but by Microsoft.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.