Software // Operating Systems
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7/18/2013
09:56 AM
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Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening

Many businesses say they still have good reasons to run Windows XP -- and ignore Microsoft's ongoing warnings to ditch the OS that's on life support.

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Microsoft seizes every opportunity to remind us that it will soon end support for Windows XP. When the clock strikes midnight on April 8, 2014, though, you can bet plenty of computers will still run on the popular operating system.

The reason is in a part a numbers game. In the hyper-change world of technology, XP has had remarkable staying power: Around 37% of PCs worldwide still run the OS, according to Net Applications. Microsoft said recently that 30% of its small and midsize business (SMB) customers still have at least some of their employees using XP. HP pegs XP usage among its business customers at a higher figure, 40%, based on a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive.

That agrees with a street-level view: Managed services provider (MSP) Tabush, based in New York City, said around 40% of the 3,000 or so desktops it manages for customers are still XP-based. CEO Morris Tabush predicted his firm will pare that down to 20% by the end of the year, but he nonetheless expects some customers to ride XP well beyond the sunset.

"They are still using it simply because it works, and many of the employees who have these PCs spend all their time in one or two business-specific apps, so the OS doesn't really matter to them," Tabush said via email interview.

[ For another take on why companies aren't making the switch, see Windows 8 Tablets' Big Flaw: Hardware Compromise. ]

Microsoft is effectively a victim of its own success with XP, which is now three versions old -- and soon to be four if you count Windows 8.1 as a full-fledged release. Shareholders and consumers want the next big thing. Many SMBs just want what works. Which is why some businesses will simply ignore Microsoft's end-of-life date for XP. This might also put Microsoft in some conflict with its vast partner ecosystem. Referring to the number of SMBs still on XP, Microsoft exec Erwin Visser wrote in a recent blog post: "This represents a huge opportunity for partners to help move people off Windows XP and onto a modern operating system. Let's get the message out, it's time to switch!"

You don't need to read too deeply between the lines to understand what Microsoft is ultimately saying to its partners and, by extension, those partners' customers: We'd really, really like you to start buying Windows 8 devices. The XP end-of-support deadline delivers as much of a marketing message as it does a support or security imperative. But the "modern OS" part of Visser's sermon misses the mark. Many of the IT pros and service providers I heard from for this story, some of them Microsoft partners, said that their customers' decisions to stick with XP were often driven by hardware and budget -- which are irrevocably intertwined for most businesses, OS support deadlines be darned.

"The business owners generally have the 'if it ain't broke' attitude, and despite our urging, they don't see the value in spending extra money to replace machines that still work," said Eric Schlissel, CEO of Los Angeles-based GeekTek IT Services, via email.

Moreover, Schlissel said there comes a point where beating his customers over the head is simply bad business. You've heard the saying: The customer is always right. That's because customers pay the bills. Some of Schlissel's customers will stay with XP until the hardware it's running on fails, at which point they'll upgrade both hardware and software. "It's a waiting game at this point, and we get diminishing returns from pushing our clients," Schlissel said.

Much larger technology providers point to a similar hardware-driven issue. Paul Moore, senior director of mobile product management and marketing at Fujitsu America, said the Microsoft partner is doing its part to educate customers on how the XP end-of-support date could impact them in areas like security, bug fixes and so forth. He also noted that enterprise support contracts for businesses that want to keep XP around beyond next April can be expensive. Approximately 20% of Fujitsu America's client businesses still run XP, Moore said.

"The reality for our customers is that they will move off of XP when they buy new hardware," Moore said via email. "The need for hardware is driving the move, not the XP end-of-support [deadline]."

While he recommends that businesses buying new hardware should go with Windows 7 or Windows 8, Moore noted that OS upgrades aren't always a straightforward choice. "Qualifying a new OS can be a difficult process for customers if they have line-of-business apps [and] licenses for older versions of software that will require the purchase of new licenses, et cetera," he said. Businesses comfortable with their current hardware portfolio, but concerned about the end of Windows XP support, should look to upgrade to Windows 7, Moore added.

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TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
7/18/2013 | 5:11:03 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
Not sure I get the Access problem. We have business unit with apps running in Access 2000 but we still moved machines to Win 7 recently. We even upgraded Excel, Word and Powerpoint to Office 2010, just left Access 2000 in place. It works fine.
That said, I'm in the camp that says change o/s when you need to, not because MS needs revenue from new o/s every couple of years.
Mark532010
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Mark532010,
User Rank: Strategist
7/18/2013 | 5:40:29 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
Moving off XP can be expensive. In our case, Dell does not support 7 (or 8) on our hw, forcing a difficult decision -
1) stay on xp - HW/Drivers supported by Dell, OS not supported by MS
2) Upgrade to 7/8 - HW/Drivers probably will work but are NOT supported by Dell, OS supported by MS
3) Replace all computers/OS - supported by everyone but the finance dept.
sholden334
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sholden334,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2013 | 5:42:18 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
When I got my new Windows 7 PC, I loaded Parallels and transferred my whole XP work environment to a virtual machine. I find Access 2000 and Borland's C++ very productive, Excel 2010 handles bigger spreadsheets and XP is rock solid. Why should I change?
cyannella
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cyannella,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2013 | 6:15:06 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
Netbeui @ Older CNC Machines not supported with the newer OS. Sorry M$... Will still need XP well beyond the exp. date. Can't force businesses to update equipment just becasue you set a date on your OS support.
Roy Atkinson
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Roy Atkinson,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2013 | 6:24:51 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
Yes, applications complicate the task of moving off XP, but not all of those applications are "legacy." Hypothetical: If I am an application developer at a large, say, healthcare institution and 80% of the PC's there are running XP, when we institute electronic medical records (EMR) software, what OS am I developing and testing for? XP of course. The project managers and hospital administration are likely pressuring me to complete the EMR rollout, so I cannot stop now and then begin developing and testing for Windows 7 or 8, as much as the desktop support folks would like me to. So, now we have a larger problem. I can't test for Win7 because I'm on a deadline, but I can't stay on XP because *it's* on a deadline. My speed is holding up deployment of new equipment and OS.

Many desktop support groups I talk to are losing sleep because they are stuck in this situation. They know exactly how vulnerable XP will be once the patching stops, and they'd love to get a new OS rolled out, but they can't.
GaryHMa
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GaryHMa,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2013 | 8:16:27 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
I am under the impression that one cannot jump from XP to 8. Can someone comment on this?
SMB Kevin
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SMB Kevin,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2013 | 9:05:37 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
Roy, thanks for the scenario. I think some version of it occurs regularly in organizations with finite resources -- which is most of them. And I agree, so-called legacy applications are only part of the compatibility picture.

-Kevin Casey
Francoman
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Francoman,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2013 | 9:45:35 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
Microsoft should resist efforts to cut off XP users from support. It will surely backfire and Microsoft leaders will again have egg on their faces. Instead they should use incentives to lead XP users to the embrace Microsoft and partner web applications and even upgrade the OS. I am sure these are budget conscience people. This is not a time for Microsoft to be mean-spirited by axing customers. Instead work with your partners to create hardware and OS incentives to drive sales among this group of users. Listen to and understand your customers, because 40% of a billion desktops is HUGE number of people. If Ballmer cuts of 40% of his customer base, then her deserves to go.
SMB Kevin
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SMB Kevin,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2013 | 10:32:06 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
Gary,

I'm assuming you're talking about upgrading from XP to 8 on the same hardware? If so, it's possible -- but most of the people I've asked about it don't necessarily recommend it. (I'm also sure there are plenty of InformationWeek readers who can offer sharper opinions on this, so hopefully they'll chime in.) One reason is that if you're running XP there's a good chance the hardware is at least several years old, and more likely 5+ years old, like the ancient XP desktop still cranking along in my office. Even if it meets the minimum requirements to run Windows 8, it probably won't deliver an optimal experience. Another reason is touch: Windows 8's UI was developed with touch in mind, even though it can be used without a touchscreen. Just my own viewpoint, but I don't see the value in running Windows 8 on a non-touch device. I'd rather have Windows 7 in that case.

That's one of the XP hang-ups for some businesses -- an XP upgrade means a hardware upgrade, too, and that can get expensive in a hurry. As Mark532010 noted above, that's often a deal-breaker for the folks that control the corporate purse strings, especially if the existing hardware/software still gets the job done.

-Kevin Casey
Number 6
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Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
7/18/2013 | 10:54:10 PM
re: Microsoft's XP Eulogy: Not Everyone's Listening
And this is why those old traditional mainframe OS's are still around. They support application portability that PC oriented OS's like Windows, Unix, and Linux don't.
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