Is XP’s demise the end of the world as we know it?

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Greetings to all my fellow techies. I don’t know if any of you have ever seen people holding signs warning that the end of the world is near. The logical side of me knows to discount it when I see someone holding a sandwich board that warns about the world’s pending doom. I won’t go so far as to call them crazy, but I assume they have their own personal reasons for trying to strike fear into the hearts of their fellow man. Perhaps they truly believe the end is near and just want to give the rest of us fair warning. In any case, those people kind of faded away after the Aztec calendar rolled over to the next great cycle without incident. I guess we survived that cataclysm.

Without any new planetary death sentences hanging over my head, I began to relax a bit. But then, Microsoft went and shattered my complacency, warning me about the next great peril via a pop-up notification on one of my computers.

2014_03_XPsupportNote The Windows XP pop-up of doom.

April 8, 2014. It’s only a few days from now! That’s the day Microsoft is finally pulling the plug on support for Windows XP. Although the date has slipped several times over the past few years, I suspect it’s a done deal this time around.

That message pop-up got into my system via a recent OS update, so it’s a safe bet it’s happening on XP machines all around the world. It’s designed to pop up on the 8th of every month unless disabled.

Oddly enough, when you follow the link provided, it takes you to a support page that tries to get you to upgrade to Windows 8, even though there is no direct path from XP to 8. And anyone who has been using XP over the past decade or so is going to be in for a shock trying to jump into the Windows 8 pool. I would think it might be better to ease them into Windows 7 first, which is similar at least to XP in terms of the user interface.

For me personally, I admit I have a lot of computers at my humble abode. I have machines for business and pleasure, and even a system that is more or less just a Steam box to download and play games. I also maintain a testbed of systems with an assortment of operating systems I use to conduct reviews of products for various publications. So, it’s fairly inevitable I would have an XP system in there somewhere.

But you might be surprised to see how many people are still running with that OS. According to a recent Gartner study, between 20 and 25 percent of all enterprise PCs worldwide are still using XP. I would guess many of those are likely in government service too, especially at the state and local level, or with telecommuting employees who never bothered to upgrade.

My own XP system happens to be dedicated to podcasting. It does what it needs to do and never really needed upgrading beyond Service Pack 3. I suspect many of those XP systems still in service probably follow a similar pattern where they serve legacy applications or basic functions that might not even work properly under a new OS.

To its credit, Microsoft is doing a lot to try and help people make the push to a new operating system. The company is offering a trial version of PCmover, which will move files and settings from XP to Windows 7 or 8 for free, though to move actual programs will require an upgrade to the professional version. And the company is offering $100 off on the purchase of a new system running Windows 8 as long as the new computer cost more than $599 and the old OS was XP.

Finally, and probably most important, Microsoft is giving away 90 days of premium phone-based technical support to new Windows 8 users. That’s a nice deal for users, but man, I would NOT want to have to work that call center. I hope the techies who field those calls get hazard pay.

So, what happens on April 8? It will probably be another Aztec calendar moment. The biggest problem for Microsoft with XP is that it built a pretty good operating system that was more or less future-proof. For example, XP machines were actually ready to handle IPv6 as early as Service Pack 2. Just because support ends does not mean the systems will stop working. It does mean hackers could program a new exploit Microsoft wouldn’t be obligated to develop a patch for. So, anyone still running XP after April 8 will want to make sure their anti-virus and anti-malware programs are kept up to date.

Beyond that, I suspect the sun will rise on April 9 like it always has. My XP podcasting box will boot up just fine, ready to record my ingenious musings without complaint like it always has, something I do love about that machine. I may leave the sandwich board and its message of doom in place though, just so that once a month I can be reminded that the end could be near… one these days anyway.

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Commentary, Guest Columns, Microsoft, Technocrat, XP
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