Microsoft reports on its Support website (opens in new tab) that Windows 8.1 falls under the Windows 8 lifecycle policy, which ends on January 10, 2023. However, the company also states that Windows 8 customers will have two years to move to Windows 8.1 starting this Friday, AKA the General Availability of the Windows 8.1 update, to remain supported under the Windows 8 lifecycle.
According to the chart, Windows 8's mainstream support actually ends on January 9, 2018, followed by the extended support end date on January 10, 2023. This schedule also applies to Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise N, Windows 8 N, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Pro N.
With the 2-year limited support, Microsoft is essentially forcing updates on those who typically drag their feet in upgrading. After October 2015, these users will no longer receive critical security patches, new features and improvements, and could possibly be locked out of third-party app updates as well. The only way to stay fresh and secure is to update to the latest version.
"Windows 8.1 builds on the foundation of Windows 8, and includes many enhancements and great new features in key areas like personalization, search, the built-in apps, Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity," the company states. "Windows 8.1 also introduces new manageability, mobility, security, user experience and networking capabilities for businesses."
Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to push on with its campaign (opens in new tab) to get customers off Windows XP and Office 2003. Believe it or not, people and businesses still use these decrepit products -- including doctors' offices and retailers -- and fully expect to be supported despite Microsoft's April 8, 2014 cut-off date. Microsoft apparently doesn't care whether customers upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 as long as they're still not relying on Windows XP.
"If your organization has not started the migration to a modern desktop, you are late. Based on historical customer deployment data, the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months from business case through full deployment," Microsoft reports. "To ensure you remain on supported versions of Windows and Office, you should begin your planning and application testing immediately to ensure you deploy before end of support."
Windows 8.1 goes public on October 18, 2013, this Friday. After that, the two-year countdown timer begins for Windows 8 vanilla.