Loss of Windows 7 Support Leads to $1M Upgrades for Maine

The software upgrade for 10,000 computers comes sooner than expected, with CIO Fred Brittain saying he doesn’t want to do without updates from Microsoft after it discontinues support for Windows 7 next year.

Maine has committed to spending more than $1 million on new software in light of Microsoft’s announcement that it will end support for Windows 7 next year.

As reported last week by Maine Public Radio, the state has a practice of replacing computers that are more than five years old. While Microsoft was selling Windows 7 with new computers as recently as fall 2018, that operating system debuted back in October 2009, and Microsoft announced this year it would end support for Windows 7 entirely after Jan. 14, 2020. This means an end to vital provisions such as technical support, software updates and security updates.

Maine CIO Fred Brittain told Maine Public Radio that free security patches are a crucial part of the operating system, and Microsoft’s decision is forcing the state to upgrade about 10,000 computers within the next year, which is unexpected.

“Through a regular process of attrition, we move through the operating systems and everything else," Brittain said. “This is an unusual push … but the rationale is that Microsoft has said we’re going to stop providing updates as of January 2020.”

The state is not alone in its rush to phase out the software, with similar issues taking place at the county level in Indiana.

Maine Public Radio reported that upgrades to computers for Maine’s executive branch are over half complete, and Brittain expects they’ll all be done by January.

This overhaul of thousands of operating systems on state computers also coincides with the restructuring of Maine’s IT office, approved this month
by executive branch commissioners. As proposed by Brittain, Maine’s Office of Information Technology will be rebranded the Office of the Chief Information Officer and split into four divisions: Enterprise Shared Services, Project Management Office, Information Security Office and Client & Infrastructure Services.