Last week, you might have read about a new development with Windows 10 where an entire generation of computers based on Intel’s Clover Trail processor family aren’t capable of upgrading to Windows 10 Creators Update. While the reasons for the decision from Microsoft weren’t available at the time, speculation was rife that it had something to do with driver development. Now that Microsoft has revealed that it made a plan to support these computers specifically, the reasons behind the move are made more clear. It’s certainly a unique problem that no-one really seems geared up to solve.
So far, Microsoft’s plan is to not let devices running Intel Clover Trail install and run the Windows 10 Creators Update automatically. Some users might be able to get this to work, but it’ll be buggy and potentially unusable for any real work. Instead, these devices will stay on Windows 10 version 1607 forever and ever. Microsoft will seed these devices security updates for the next six years in a unique deal to see that they are supported properly for the ten-year lifespan originally promised by Microsoft.
Devices running Intel’s Atom Z2760, Z2580, Z2560, and Z2520 quad-core processors specifically will have security update support until 31 January 2023. Normally, older versions of Windows 10 should see security updates for two years before they are officially unsupported.
Thus, if you’re still using one of these devices, you can either stick to what you have so far with Windows 10 and six years of planned security updates, or you can move to Linux and enjoy continued support and new features for years to come.
As for the reason why this is happening, it’s really Intel’s fault. When designing Clover Trail, Intel’s plan was to see this included in mobile devices like tablets, 2-in-1 ultraportables, and in TV sticks. Clover Trail had designs that would fit into smartphones as well, which meant that Intel was well equipped to take the fight to ARM processors in the markets they had dominated previously. Unlike Intel’s other designs, it ran on DDR2-800 memory for cost reasons.
When it came to designing a graphics core, Intel decided to not use their own designs. They reached out to Imagination Technologies to include the PowerVR SGX 500-series family in Clover Trail. This would enable Intel to use the x86 Android project on client devices, and would give them access to a mature driver stack. The combination was quite effective, and enabled Intel to bring out very disruptive products in a short space of time.
But mobile wasn’t something that suited them, and it wasn’t something they could design effectively for. In fact, despite the fact that they were practically giving these processors away to vendors, they couldn’t see them being picked up fast enough. They quit the game in May 2016 and cancelled another planned product, Broxton, that would have been disruptive again. Driver support was supposed to continue, until Imagination Technologies started collapsing.
Last month, Apple decided that it was going to start making its own graphics processors. They didn’t use Imagination Technologies for the designing of the A10X processor, so they finally cut them off. Apple was Imagination’s biggest and most prolific customer, and they had bet on the Apple horse as much as they could.
Once that support drew away, Imagination immediately had to start a liquidation assessment and put itself up for sale on the market. All current projects have been stopped indefinitely, and all legacy product support has likewise been halted.
That includes driver development for the PowerVR SGX 500 family for Windows 10. Eish!