Windows releases have a lot in common with Star Trek movies: in terms of reception they seem to alternate. Windows 7 was generally well regarded at its launch in ’09, as was Windows 10 in 2015. Windows 8, the awkward middle kid that tried some massive UI changes in 2012, wasn’t. Windows 8.1, the latest major update to the operating system, will officially end support at the beginning of next year. And Microsoft can’t wait to tell you about it.
As The Verge reports, anyone still using Windows 8.1 will be getting notifications about the end of software updates sometime next month. They have until January 10 to find a new operating system or go online without any backup in the form of security updates. It can be a tricky transition: PCs still running Windows 8.1 may not be able to meet the Windows 11 minimum requirements, as Microsoft fully admits in another support document. The company still sells Windows 10, which is notably less choosy about low-power hardware (and doesn’t require a Trusted Platform Module), but will officially end its support period in 2025.
Windows 8 immediately caused controversy when it launched, mainly because of the radical departure from the Metro user interface that borrowed heavily from Windows Phone, with an emphasis on touchscreen functionality long before most users were ready to embrace it on PC. Microsoft tried to create a unified system that integrated both conventional desktop and mobile apps, and it didn’t work. Windows 8.1 was a hefty patch released the following year that aimed to address some of these issues, most notably a more flexible Start screen with easier access to the more conventional Windows desktop. But by this time, public opinion had soured and huge amounts of users had decided to stick with Windows 7. Windows 8 technically ended support back in 2016, when Microsoft pushed people to apply 8.1 functionality and security patches.
As of February 2022, StatCounter reports that Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 are combined for only 4.42% of Windows users worldwide. The older Windows 7, which ended support more than two years ago, still has nearly three times as many users. While not such a big blunder, Windows 11 draws comparisons to 8 because users are hesitant to upgrade. It currently has just over 10 percent of the user base… slightly less than Windows 7. Ouch.