Opinion by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Windows 10 is making too many PCs obsolete

Windows 10 will be supported until Oct. 14, 2025 -- unless your computer has a Clover Trail CPU. Then, you’re out of luck.

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Opinion by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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Microsoft released its latest Windows 10 update earlier this year. The name, Creators Update, makes it sound bigger than it is; it’s really a minor step forward. But about 10 million Windows 10 customers have to face up to an unpleasant surprise: Their machines can’t update to Creators Update.

That’s how many poor sad sacks bought a Windows 8.x laptop in 2013 or 2014 with an Intel Clover Trail processor. Any of them who have tried to update their PC with the March 2017 Creators Update, version 1703, had no success and were presented with this message: “Windows 10 is no longer supported on this PC.” Boy, that must have been fun!

Not the end of the road for your three-year-old machine, though. I mean, you could always keep running the last version of Windows 10 on your PC. It wasn’t as if you went directly to a permanent blue screen of death. And anyway, Microsoft eventually backed off some, announcing that, while you can’t update those machines, you can still get security patches.

Now, that’s one giant corporation with a big heart.

I remember when Microsoft was forcing “upgrades” to Windows 10 down our throats. There you were with a machine on the low end of Windows 10 hardware compatibility. You might have had some doubts about making the move to 10, but Microsoft was just so persistent. You must be pleased as punch you surrendered now.

Some people have told me that it’s not fair of me to expect Microsoft to support aging hardware. That’s bull, and I’ll tell you why.

You may have noticed that PC sales have been declining for years. Know why? PCs last for years. I’m still running computers that are over a decade old.

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Better still, don’t spend your IT money replacing it.

PCs aren’t smartphones, which die in two to four years. I expect my PCs to last for at least ten years — especially when I’m running desktop Linux on them.

But what do I expect? Of course Windows 10 needs more hardware muscle than older systems can supply. But tell me -- I’m serious -- what the heck did Windows 10 add to PCs that was worth having? I can’t think of a thing. Windows 7, to me, is still the best version of Windows. Microsoft, of course, wants you off Windows 7.

People tell me, “No, no, we need new powerful hardware to deal with today’s operating systems and applications.”

Really? Excuse me if I missed something, but aren’t we moving our applications to the cloud? Sure, if you’re editing videos on your PC, you need power. But I can do 99% of my work on an ARM-powered Chromebook with 2GBs of RAM. So can you, I would bet.

So tell me, Microsoft, why can’t you fully support Windows 10 on these older PCs? They’re not that old, and they can already run the earlier versions.

Admittedly, the first generation of Clover Trail was … odd. The graphic processing units in Clover Trail PCs were underpowered from day one. Still, Microsoft urged Clover Trail owners to move to Windows 10 just as tirelessly as it did those running PCs with a best-of-breed 2015 i7 Skylake processor.

I’m ticked off not just that Microsoft is willing to dump customers. It’s that it is treating poorly people who upgraded in good faith. To my mind, Microsoft made an implicit promise that it would be there for these customers. It has broken that promise, and those customers deserve better.

But, looking ahead, why should I believe that Microsoft won’t dump me, with my powerful, but no longer new, chips, on the next go-round?

Yes, I get it. Microsoft can’t support old hardware forever. But maybe Microsoft should adjust its business model in recognition of the fact that today’s hardware doesn’t become obsolete as fast as yesterday’s hardware did. And maybe, when it introduces a new operating system that demands a lot more from hardware, it should throw in a few new features that make it all worthwhile.

Or maybe you would like me to introduce you to a nice Chromebook or suggest you try, say, Mint Linux on your PC. I think you’ll be a lot happier, and if you’re already running mostly cloud-based applications, you won’t be missing anything by bidding Windows adieu.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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