Microsoft made ‘em do it: The latest Kaby Lake, Zen chips will support only Windows 10 – PCWorld

Microsoft is slamming the door on PC builders and upgraders who might have hoped to use the new Intel Kaby Lake or AMD Zen chips for Windows 7 or Windows 8 PCs. Sorry: Both chips are officially supported only by Microsoft’s Windows 10.

Microsoft’s mandate is discreet rather than secret. In January, the company tried to shorten its support lifecycle for Intel Skylake PCs running Windows 7 and 8, a policy the company subsequently abandoned after much outcry. But Microsoft’s statements have also consistently included a critical caveat: The latest generations of silicon—specifically Intel’s Kaby Lake chip, Qualcomm’s 8996, and AMD’s Bristol Ridge silicon—will all require Windows 10.

“As new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support,” a Microsoft spokeswoman replied, when asked to confirm that that position was still in place. The goal appears to be to move forward with new features, even if it means leaving some users behind. “This enables us to focus on deep integration between Windows and the silicon, while maintaining maximum reliability and compatibility with previous generations of platform and silicon.” 

Why this matters: Microsoft’s push forward, however rational from a technology standpoint, robs PC enthusiasts of their choice of operating systems—a freedom this particular sector of the community has loudly defended in the past. This could have broader implications for the PC market, too: It could be the deciding factor that finally brings about the abandonment of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. (Linux is an option, too.)

kaby lake wafer Gordon Mah Ung

Intel’s 7th gen Kaby Lake is built on a similar 14nm process as the previous Skylake CPUs. But a change in Microsoft’s support policy means that it will be only be officially supported by Windows 10.

What the mandate means for PC users

AMD and Intel, for their part, appear to have had little choice in Microsoft’s decision essentially to limit the customers they can sell to.

“We are committed to working with Microsoft and our ecosystem partners to help ensure a smooth transition given these changes to Microsoft’s Windows support policy,” an Intel spokesman said.

“No, Intel will not be updating Win 7/8 drivers for 7th Gen Intel Core per Microsoft’s support policy change,” he added in an email on Tuesday.

An AMD representative was equally neutral. “AMD’s processor roadmap is fully aligned with Microsoft’s software strategy,” AMD chief technical officer Mark Papermaster said, via a company spokeswoman. 

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