If hardware costs are the steady jab, then application compatibility delivers the knockout punch for Windows shops. Some businesses and their IT providers have too much at stake in certain applications, on top of their hardware investments, to bear the burden of saying goodbye to XP.
Oleg Moskalensky, president of Productive Computer Systems in the Seattle area, pointed to one of his clients, a resort in Idaho. He developed the system that the entire property runs on -- reservations, scheduling, housekeeping, you name it. That was around the time of XP's turn-of-the-century launch, and Moskalensky built the system in the Office XP version of Access, using Virtual Basic for Applications (VBA) and running Windows XP.
"It's still running to this day," Moskalensky said in a phone interview. "People kind of open their eyes when I tell them I'm still running Access systems from back then, but they are."
He's been "stuck" since Office 2003 rolled out, which wasn't compatible with his large, complex system built with Office XP. New versions of Windows complicated the matter for Moskalensky and the Idaho resort, among other customers -- he compared it to being frozen like Han Solo at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Application compatibility is not a click -- or touch, in Windows 8 terms -- of a button for some businesses.
"Microsoft wound up doing it in such a way that, on the one hand, it's a situation where we're moving into the future where you need to give people more features, flexibility, innovation, things like that -- so I can kind of appreciate it," Moskalensky said. "At the same time, it suffers compatibility-wise and kind of forces people -- like it forces me and my clients -- to run XP."
It's not just a SMB issue, either. Moskalensky, who has done training and consulting for a couple of Fortune 500 firms in the Seattle area, said IT pros at those large enterprises are also still married to XP. "For their IT department, it takes a long time to migrate and they already have all these applications that are developed and running in that environment," he said. "[XP] is prevalent because people get used to running what they're running, they bought these machines that are still functional, and so until they wind up buying new computers which have a shiny Windows 8 sticker on it, they don't really feel they want to take [on] the hassle."
For some of Moskalensky's customers, moving off of XP means, in brick-and-mortar terms, demolishing everything and rebuilding from scratch. It's inevitable, but not in any way that businesses like the Idaho resort are excited about. When the time comes, Moskalensky said he'll move those client businesses to the latest version of Windows, in large part to hopefully hedge against future compatibility headaches. Until then, though, expect him and plenty of SMBs to ignore Microsoft's reminders about the end of XP support -- and the corresponding pitch to move into the devices-and-services world Windows 8 was built for.
"It's the human deal about not wanting to change," Moskalensky said. "XP's running pretty reliably for most things, and so [businesses] are still running it, it's still working for them, why change? Just because Microsoft announces something newer and shinier?"