Why Microsoft may never upcycle Windows 7


Don Sharpe
by Don Sharpe
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Windows 7 as freeware

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has kicked off an online campaign calling on Microsoft to make Windows 7 available to all users for free. The organization is also asking the tech giant to offer the Operating System (OS) as an open-source project so that the developer community can study and improve it.

In its highly optimistic “Upcycle Windows 7 petition,” the FSF floats several reasons why Microsoft should make Windows 7 free software.

We call on them to release it as free software and give it to the community to study and improve. As there is already a precedent for releasing some core Windows utilities as free software.

Windows 7 as freeware is a far-fetched idea

First of all, Microsoft isn’t done with Windows 7 despite officially ending support for the OS on January 14, 2020. The company will be selling Extended Security Updates (ESU) to organizations that are still using the platform until 2023.

This year, Microsoft expects to receive at least €800,000 in ESU payments from the German government. The firm would lose such revenue if it made Windows 7 freeware right now.

There are also security issues that come with open-sourcing software code. Keep in mind that a significant portion of the programming in Windows 10 is also in its predecessor.

Since Microsoft views Windows as one of its flagship products, there’s no chance it’ll release the product’s codebase to the open-source community.

Like FSF points out in its petition, Microsoft has, in the past, released code for some of its software products to open-source developers. But making a utility like the Windows Calculator available to coders at GitHub isn’t the same thing as exposing the entire Windows 7 code to the developer community.

In any case, Microsoft hasn’t withdrawn the Calculator from its OS. The utility is available to users, and it makes sense that the company wants it improved to keep providing the best user experiences.

But the case is different with Windows 7. Why would Microsoft want anybody to help improve an OS it has abandoned and replaced with a better and more secure product?

It looks like, for now, if any individual or consumer advocacy group wishes to help make Windows better, they can only do that by using the OS and then providing feedback to Microsoft.