Microsoft has made a notable change to its extended servicing arrangements for Windows 7, for the first time allowing small and medium businesses (SMBs) to buy Extended Security Updates.
Previously the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs) were only available to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise customers in Volume Licensing who planned to still run Windows 7 devices after Microsoft ends support and free security patches on January 14, 2020.
But as with enterprise customers, the Windows 7 ESU for SMBs will be “sold on a per-device basis with the price increasing each year,” according to Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365.
Microsoft hasn’t disclosed pricing details, but even the cheapest known rates for enterprise customers would make a CIO think twice about maintaining lots of Windows 7 PCs after January 2020.
SMBs will need to purchase ESUs from managed service providers that are part of Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider program.
SMBs and enterprise customers will be able to purchase ESU from December 1, 2019.
As per Microsoft’s FAQ for ESU, the service is available until January 2023, which is three years from the date Microsoft stops supplying free security patches.
Enterprise customers on top-tier subscriptions like Windows E5 and Microsoft 365 also have the option of getting Windows 7 ESU for one year at no cost, however that’s a six month promotional offer that ends on December 31, 2019.
Microsoft reckons that most organizations will only need one year of Windows 7 ESU coverage as customers upgrade to Windows 10.
On the question of pricing, IDG's Computerworld earlier this year reported a Microsoft PDF blunder that leaked its Windows 7 ESU pricing schedule, which showed ESU budgets costs could easily run into the tens-of-thousands for organizations running lots of Windows 7 machines.
The cheapest option was for existing Windows 10 Enterprise and Microsoft 365 Enterprise customers, which need to pay $25 per device in the first year, $50 per device in the second year, and $100 per device in the third year.
However, customers planning to just upgrade to Windows 10 Pro instead of say, Microsoft 365 Enterprise, would need to pay $50, $100, and $200, respectively with each year.
How Microsoft structures Windows 7 ESU with managed service provider partners that serve SMBs remains to be seen.
But the known ESU prices are designed to incentivize businesses to upgrade to more expensive and capable subscriptions, such as its Microsoft 365 bundle, which includes Windows 10, Office 365 and additional security capabilities.
"With Microsoft 365, we are building the tools to help our customers stay secure and current, setting them up for success now and in years to come," said Spataro.
Microsoft yesterday also announced general availability of its Windows Virtual Desktop client, another option for organizations still running Windows 7 after January 2020. The service lets customers virtualize Windows 7 desktops and includes ESUs until January 2023 at no extra cost. The client is available on Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, and via browsers that support HTML5 like Chrome, Edge and Firefox.