End of support for Win 10 may result in increased e-waste

By Jurassic JennJun 29, 2024 15:01 PMTech
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Windows. Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

The impending end of support for Windows 10 by Microsoft raises concerns about the rise of electronic waste, particularly in the form of outdated PCs. While Windows 11 itself is not directly responsible for the e-waste dilemma, its hardware requirements indirectly contribute to the issue. The TPM 2.0 chip, necessary for Windows 11's security features, renders a significant portion of the global installed base incompatible with the upgrade. This is reported by SSP.

Canalys, a reputable market research company, estimates that around 20% of the world's Windows users—equivalent to over 200 million devices—won't be able to transition to Windows 11. Most of these devices are currently running Windows 10, and although they don't become obsolete with the end of support, the lack of free and continued security updates may prompt businesses to seek newer PC models.

A report by analysts Kieren Jessop and Ben Caddy predicts that approximately 240 million Windows 10 PCs—almost a fifth of the Windows 10 installed base—will become e-waste by the time Microsoft ceases support for the operating system. While many of these PCs are still usable, their incompatibility with the latest supported version of Windows reduces their value for refurbishing and reselling.

Furthermore, demand for devices no longer supported by Microsoft will be minimal. Even organizations operating with tight IT budgets may find the lack of security updates discouraging. Microsoft offers an Extended Security Updates program, but the high costs associated with it make extending the life of Windows 10 PCs unappealing to many. The price escalates annually, amounting to $61 per device in the first year, $122 in the second, and $244 in the third.

The consequence of both the end of support and the increased hardware requirements of Windows 11 is a potential boom in PC sales and subsequent PC disposal. Many companies, prompted by contingencies during the COVID-19 pandemic, plan to refresh their PC fleets. A recent Canalys survey revealed that 73% of channel partners expect Windows 10 end of support to influence their customers' upgrade plans.

Yet, it's not just the evolution of operating systems driving hardware obsolescence. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) applications further pushes aging Windows 10 hardware out of usability. As AI functionality increasingly moves from the cloud to PC devices, older systems may struggle to efficiently operate AI-driven programs. Running AI inferencing on a device offers cost-efficiency, reduced latency, personalized experiences, availability without an internet connection, and heightened privacy and security. These advantages propel the need for AI-capable PCs.

However, while migration to new hardware intensifies, some organizations are adopting a different approach—extending the lifespan of existing PCs. The corporate enterprise often seeks to keep machines operational for longer periods, shifting away from strict three-year lifecycles. OEMs, such as HP, even consider extending the lifecycle to seven years. This mindset necessitates considerations beyond time and includes the compatibility between systems when cascading hardware between departments.

The issue of e-waste resulting from Windows 10 end of support underscores the importance of device and OS vendors embracing sustainable practices to maximize usability. It calls for a collaborative effort between manufacturers, consumers, and policymakers to reduce e-waste. Vendors can contribute by designing long-lasting products, offering repair services, and ensuring extended software support. Informed purchase decisions and proper disposal by consumers are equally vital.

PC vendors now adopt multifaceted marketing campaigns that emphasize AI capabilities alongside hardware sustainability. However, the lifespan of devices depends on consumer purchasing patterns and organizations' IT procurement cycles. Responsibility also lies with OS vendors like Microsoft and Apple, whose decision to end support for an operating system prematurely retires functional devices, often due to security concerns.

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