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4/7/2014
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Windows XP Diehards Face The Music

Some Windows XP holdouts make late-breaking pushes to upgrade -- to Windows 7, not Windows 8.1.

Windows XP Game Over: 9 Upgrade Options
Windows XP Game Over: 9 Upgrade Options
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

The end is here. Well, sort of. Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP April 8, but the venerable operating system isn't going to vanish overnight -- or anytime soon, for that matter. XP still powered more than 27% of PCs worldwide at the end of March, according to Net Applications.

We checked in with two IT providers that told InformationWeek last summer that some of their clients would likely continue using XP well past the April 8 support cutoff. While both have been largely successful in encouraging customers to upgrade, there will be stragglers.

Back in July, Eric Schlissel, CEO of GeekTek IT Services in Los Angeles, noted that most of his client businesses had an "if it ain't broke" attitude when it came to XP, which, coupled with poor reception for Windows 8, made the cost of upgrading a hard sell. Since then, many of these businesses have seen the productivity light: Getting off XP meant getting off geriatric XP-era hardware -- an upside Microsoft and its hardware partners also gladly tout.

[Many users say cost is the top reason they're holding onto XP, but there are other reasons, too. Read Windows XP Holdouts: 6 Top Excuses.]

"Over the course of the last few months our clients' attitudes have changed, and many have been receptive to the idea of upgrading their XP machines to Windows 7," Schlissel said in an email interview. "Many of their XP machines were intolerably slow, so they ended up with happier and more productive employees."

Indeed, Schlissel positioned XP upgrades as a productivity-and-performance booster for his customers rather than a doom-and-gloom message about the potential security risks of running XP after Microsoft stops issuing software updates. A second upgrade push several weeks ago kicked some more laggards into gear, and their upgrades are now underway, according to Schlissel. That said, two of his customers have shown little interest in saying goodbye to XP.

"One of them will likely reluctantly upgrade, but the other simply doesn't have the funds available," Schlissel said, adding that the latter company has more than 40 XP machines in seven locations and would not have made the April 8 date even if it had wanted to. Cost is a real issue for some XP users -- for many, upgrading means a software and hardware overhaul that includes application updates, peripherals, and other expenses that go well beyond just buying an OS license.

There's also the matter of employee time for businesses that don't hire outside help. Reader DavidA268 recently commented: "I run a small business and for the last 3 to 4 weeks I have had one member of staff trying to resolve issues of upgrading just to Windows 7."

As for possible risks after April 8, GeekTek will monitor industry news sites and security bulletins. It will update antivirus software more frequently for its XP diehards. "We have scripts that can disable network connections remotely, so if there's an outbreak, we can isolate XP machines through our [remote monitoring and management] tool," Schlissel said. He added, however, that GeekTek won't do this indefinitely. "Some clients don't see productivity as a big enough motivator [to upgrade], so we are making it clear that we will support their XP machines through the transition, but our support will also come to an end soon."

Morris Tabush, CEO of managed services provider Tabush in New York City, told us last July that 40% of the 3,000 or so PCs under the firm's care still ran XP. Today, that's down to around 5%. "We did a push to upgrade to Windows 7 and most clients were very receptive," Tabush said via email.

For that remaining 5%, Tabush said his firm won't be doing anything extra to protect them from potential threats. "We already implement many measures to ensure the security and stability of end points, including virus and malware protection software, OS and application patch management, Internet filtering, and security policies," he said. "We will not be taking any additional measures for XP after April 8."

At both GeekTek and Tabush, the customers that upgraded did so almost exclusively to Windows 7, not Windows 8.x. Asked if any of his clients were moving to anything other than Windows 7, including non-Microsoft platforms such as Mac OS/X, Linux, or Chromebooks, GeekTek's Schlissel said, "Not on any scale worth mentioning, though we are actively educating clients on [virtual desktop infrastructure] and cloud desktops."

Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators. Read our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue today.

Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses. View Full Bio

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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
4/15/2014 | 7:28:27 AM
Re: Some still getting XP support from Microsoft
I can understand the reluctance for banks or ATM manufacturers to disclose what version of OS their ATM runs but I think when we're talking about personal data security someone needs to get out in front of this issue and make a statement before the FUD sets in.  I'm sure we've all seen pictures of ATMs that have bluescreened or are stuck in an XP startup loop so it's no secret that they run some version of Windows but I don't think it has sunk in with the general public that those ATMs might be running an OS that will never be patched again.  All it is going to take is one national news story and the banks will be scrambling to make customers feel safe.  If they are paying for support or running one of the XP embedded versions that is supported until 2016 then that needs to be advertised somewhere by the bank before they are playing catch up on this issue.  I know Microsoft would rather have everyone move on but I get the feeling that end of life issue is being overly simplified in the name of getting regular customers who will never pay for support to upgrade.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/14/2014 | 3:02:40 PM
Re: Some still getting XP support from Microsoft
Yeah, I agree: The public conversation has been skewed.

I talked to Microsoft last week about the ATMs, and there's a ton of incomplete and misleading information floating around out there. My interview about the ATMs is at the end of this article, but here's the gist: Some ATMs use a locked-down version of Windows XP Professional and are now unsupported (unless their operators are paying Microsoft for extended support); some other ATMs use a version of Windows Embedded that is now unsupported (again, unless the operator is paying for extended support); and other still run supported OSes, including versions of Windows Embedded that Microsoft will maintain for several more years.


Microsoft declined to provide any specific breakdowns regarding how many ATMs fall into each of the above buckets, but at least a few sources within the ATM industry say there are a lot of Windows XP Professional-based ATMs out there (I included links to a few sources in the comments thread of this article, for example). So, long story made short-- the ATM risk appears to be overblown, and, as you said, a lot of people have hyped it by conflating more than one version of Windows into a single group. But there are definitely unsupported ATMs out there, and some banks are definitely paying Microsoft to keep them safe.
anon5492819007
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anon5492819007,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/14/2014 | 10:23:50 AM
Facing the music you say? Well yes, I am listening to music with my XP computer. Something the 7 computer it replaced was incapable of doing.
I am currently using XP.  My computer didn't suffer any ill effects on or since April 8th.  For that matter, I have never experienced any problems with this computer since I bought it last May.  Since the title of the article mentioned music, I feel obliged to say that the sound quality on my Windows XP computer is excellent.  The sound quality on the Windows 7 laptop that I replaced when I bought my XP computer was absolutely horrendous.  It ran very slowly too.  I had similar problems with every other computer I've ever had that ran a post-XP operating system.  They also tended to crash just a few months after being purchased.  People kept telling me that it wasn't the operating system that was the problem. It was a mechanical problem, or the sound card, or a virus, or this or that or whatever, but it couldn't possibly be the operating system.  I ignored them and switched back to XP, and all those problems went away immediately.  Was it the operating system or did Microsoft start using really cheap parts with its newer computers?  I don't know, but regardless the result is the same, and I'm sticking with the kind of computer that experience has shown works.  If and when my XP computer does crash, I'll simply buy another one.  I checked a few days ago and there are still at least two vendors selling brand new XP computers.  Granted they cost several thousand dollars, but to get a quality computer (which by definition means avoiding 7 and 8), it's absolutely worth it.  
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
4/14/2014 | 8:21:25 AM
Re: Some still getting XP support from Microsoft
I'm going to have to go back and check but I think most ATMs use XP embedded and that only one variant of XP embedded is end of life, the other still have two more years of support left.  I think that many reports are including XP embedded in their counts so things are a bit skewed.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/11/2014 | 6:20:38 PM
Re: Some still getting XP support from Microsoft
Some of the banks who use unsupported versions of XP in their ATMs are also paying for extended service from Microsoft. They've got deep pockets and know ATM hacks would be a PR catastrophe, so I'm not very worried about the big players.For most others who rely on XP, though, the budget just isn't there. Some reports last year said companies would end up spending more in the long run if they stayed on Windows XP. I'm not sure if that's true as a general rule, but with the banks shelling out millions, it might be true for them.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
4/10/2014 | 1:28:01 PM
Re: Windows 7 backward compatibility
@anon  They are out there, it is extremely hit or miss. The ones that fail are because of DLL that doesn't work. The vendors don't want to fix that DLL, they want you to buy the Win 7 compatible version.

An example here is some software originally from Best Software called Abra, a HR package. Best got absorbed by a bigger company who has upgraded software from using Visual FoxPro databases to SQL Server. They have also changed several modules where we can't even do what we were doing. The upgrade cost was about $5K, assuming you already had SQL Server and the expertise to migrate yourself.

That is what many companies are facing. Here, we made decision just to run XP in a virtual desktop with the new license you are required to buy every 3 years to do so. We do not connect to internet or run email on them. Being virtual, you don't just run up and stick a USB drive in it to pass malware. The only exposure is an internal network worm, like Blaster in the Win 2000 days. Since we sit on a private non routable network with a proxy server, we are OK with this risk. We plan on running this version of Abra until we have a business reason not to.

We also had some software on a Lab XP computer that works with the Tensile Tester it is connected to. The upgrade cost to a Win 7 version of that was $40K. We are not upgrading, this computer also does not do web browsing or email

But unless you have something like this going on, I agree the time is now to move on to something else, whether Win 7/8, Linux or Chromebook. Especially if you web browse or email on it.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
4/9/2014 | 8:27:42 AM
Re: Some still getting XP support from Microsoft
While reading the article I was going to comment about the UK government and some other organizations that have already contracted with Microsoft to pay for patches.  The one thing I haven't seen with regard to these support contracts are if the patches that are built for the UK government or anyone else for that matter will be released to the public.  Microsoft has a history of giving the patches away as long as you can prove that you're experiencing the issues it resolves.  At the very highest level this is good but I don't think that the general public is going to try jumping through those hoops when they realize that one support ticket could potentially cost them more than buying a Win 7 license and upgrading.  Large organizations will be the hold outs in this situation but they are also the ones with the resources to move forward so there is a bit of a catch 22 going on.
KevinRCasey
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KevinRCasey,
User Rank: Moderator
4/8/2014 | 9:31:41 PM
Re: Some still getting XP support from Microsoft
I don't see that as backpedaling. Rather, it's a nice, final revenue stream generated by XP for MS -- as I understand it such one-off contracts have been in the works for some time. The UK government is paying well north of $9 million (USD) for a year's worth of support, according to that story. Some large enterprises will pony up 7-figure sums as well. Everyone else? Probably not in the budget.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
4/8/2014 | 8:20:31 PM
Some still getting XP support from Microsoft
I read an article today about a special deal Microsoft made with the UK Government

Government signs £5m deal with Microsoft to extend Windows XP support for a year
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/government-signs-5m-deal-with-microsoft-to-extend-windows-xp-support-for-a-year-9237760.html


Could more backpedaling be on the way?
robzilla
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robzilla,
User Rank: Strategist
4/8/2014 | 2:19:40 PM
Re: Cost is the key to upgrading
Linux is great for certain users but most of the people still using XP would be just as confused using Linux as Windows 8.1. Also machines running XP are generally much slower and Linux or let's just use Ubuntu as an example is not so resource light anymore.  Modern Linux operating systems need a fast processor and at least 2 gigs of ram to run well. Heck try using Android kit kat on an old tablet or phone which is a o's geared for lean hardware and you are telling me I can run modern Linux on  pentium4 with maybe a gig of ram? Sorry it won't work.  I have a 7 year old laptop with a decent amd graphics card and a 2 ghz. Dual core turion processor that runs Vista and tried to update it with Linux and I am an old Linux user since about 2000 so I am familiar with all the lean distress and desktop shells out there and it was no faster than Vista was and of course not all of my hardware worked properly.  Try using a decent driver on an older amd mobile graphics card.  I had 4 gigs of ram on that machine too. Now I have a 5 year old top of the line Windows 7 machine with decent specs and it runs Linux just fine. I also have a new Dell Venue 8 pro which I tend to use most of the time and is as fast as my win 7 laptop and boots way faster. This is with a small atom quad core and 2 gigs of ram. My point is at some point just like the car analogy you will end up spending more time and money just to keep something running while you could upgrade with relatively low cost. I have seen laptops with win 8 for under $300 now not top of the line but for those still on XP probably as good and fast if not way faster than there old machine with a lot more functionality.  I wish Linux was a decent alternative but honestly for the average user still running XP it really is not. Sure there is a learning curve on win 8 but it is not that bad and would be no different than learning a completely new OS. 

I really do not understand all of the hate towards 8.1. It really in my opinion is a much needed step in the right direction.  More and more people are moving to mobile platforms and not just for consumption.  Now if you are a power user than of course a desktop makes more sense for future hardware upgrades and repair but most average users just do not need anything more than a laptop or tablet and Windows 8.1 is really awesome on a touch device and now with update 1 for 8.1 it solves a lot of issues for most users. The start menu is now a graphical icon based screen instead of a huge cluttered menu, thank god!  Also my most used applications or programs are just a touch or click away neatly organized by my choice of categories.  

As I see it people just don't like change even when they demand it. If Windows 8 was very much like 7 everyone would complain how nothing has changed and we are getting ripped off and when they take a risk and implement much needed changes everyone gets upset.  How many people that complain about win 8 actually use it?  I have found it to be extremely responsive and reliable on average to sub spec hardware. Windows 7 was great but even it gets slow and bogged down on decent hardware after a short while.  I do not think windows XP users would be able to use their machines with Win 7 because it is very resource intense.  Windows 8 would run much better but driver issues would be a huge problem.  As I see it just keep using XP until your hardware fails then for the love of god upgrade and do not blame MS for planned obsolescence as I can see no other company open source or not who has supported the same version of an OS for so long. 

I am no proprietary Microsoft blind supporter as there were a few years where I abandoned them out of disdain but as I learned other companies are really no different and while open source software is really great and I love the philosophy behind it too many people slam Microsoft without real justification.  Do they make mistakes and could they have implemented Windows 8 better, sure but at least they tried to in an innovative direction and after using Android tablets for a while and apple ios win 8 is not perfect and maybe Ubuntu on a tablet would even be better but for now my Dell venue pro is a huge improvement over every apple or android tablet out there and yes the apps are not as good but they are not that bad and the added functionality of multiple windows and being able to install any software I want more than makes up for it. Not to mention Android fragmentation and terrible manufacturer OS update support. 

I hope that multiple OS vendors keep pushing each other to offer more and more to the consumer but let's stop bashing Microsoft because they are tired of supporting a 12 year old OS. It is long past over due to retire XP I challenge anyone who is upset to show me of another vendor who has actively supported another OS version for do long? 
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