Windows 8 two-year support countdown begins Friday
October 14, 2013 // 8:32 a.m.
The release of Windows 8.1 on Friday will begin a two-year countdown for stick-in-the-muds looking to hang on to Windows 8, after which they will cease to receive support from Microsoft.
Designed to address criticisms with the company's heavily touch-centric Windows 8 operating system, and heralding a move to more frequent operating system releases styled after Linux and OS X, Windows 8.1 will roll out publicly this week as a free upgrade for all Windows 8 users. Those on the cut-down ARM-compatible Windows RT will also receive Windows RT 8.1, again as a free update.
Some, however, are unlikely to want to install the software straight away. Microsoft has had a rough time lately with updates and patches, having to pull numerous faulty Patch Tuesday releases over the past six months following flaws that, in their worst cases, can prevent systems from booting correctly. As a result, more cautious users - and especially those in enterprise environments - are likely to hold fire on the update and allow others to discover the kinks.
There is a limit to how long delaying the installation of Windows 8.1 will work, though: Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 8.1 will be a mandatory install, with support for Windows 8 coming to a close in two years' time. After October 2015, Microsoft has warned customers, support for Windows 8 - including the release of critical security patches - will cease.
The original Windows 8 support lifecycle saw the software receive updates through to 2023, but under the new terms Microsoft will only support Windows 8.1 to this date - leaving anyone who hasn't upgraded dead in the water.
Thankfully, the status of Windows 8.1 - which is rather more like Windows 8 Service Pack 1 than a fully-fledged new operating system - means that, initial reticence aside, the two-year window should be plenty for even the most cautious of enterprise users to test and install the update.