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3/13/2014
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Windows XP Goes Dark: 5 Things To Expect

Microsoft customers face Windows XP's end-of-service deadline. How much will you suffer from the lack of support?

Windows XP Shutdown: 10 Facts To Know
Windows XP Shutdown: 10 Facts To Know
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

In less than a month, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP. After 12 years it's still the second-most-popular operating system in the world. XP runs on hundreds of millions of PCs, including many critical business systems. What will these machines, and the people who rely on them, face after XP support goes dark on April 8? Here are five things to expect.

1. XP's retirement: inconvenience for many, malware for some, cyber-cataclysm for a few.
Most people caught off-guard by next month's deadline have little excuse. Microsoft announced its XP intentions back in 2007 -- more than two years before iPads hit the market, and long before a prolonged PC market slump seemed likely. Nevertheless, XP still claimed more than 29% of the desktop market in February, according to web-tracking firm Net Applications. That translates to roughly half-a-billion active users.

Even now, with Microsoft and other technology companies offering support, many people fall victim to scams and malware. It's a foregone conclusion that criminals see XP's retirement as an opportunity, which makes some sort of post-April cybercrime spike inevitable. Some have speculated that hackers will hijack XP machines for botnets, making the aging OS a risk not only to individual users, but to Web security in general.

Still, experts say most businesses who can't abandon XP have taken proactive steps, such as disconnecting XP systems from the public Internet and limiting them to single-application use. It's not an ideal approach, but the tactic should mitigate XP's potential to wreak havoc.

2. Non-Microsoft platforms will gain modest share.
As users have migrated over the last year off of XP, both Windows 7, which currently has almost half the desktop market, and Windows 8 and 8.1, which claim a little more than 10%, have gained market share. For better or worse, some users will stick with XP for the foreseeable future, and some XP systems will be replaced by tablets rather than new PCs. In order for Microsoft to avoid losing PC market share, almost everyone who does buy a new PC will need to choose a Windows option.

[Check out what to expect in the newest version of Windows. See Windows 8.1 Update 1: 10 Key Changes.]

Indeed, if this weren't the case, Microsoft wouldn't be emphasizing non-touch UI refinements (an explicit appeal to disenchanted mouse-and-keyboard users) in its upcoming Windows 8.1 update. Both OS X and Linux have made incremental-but-steady gains in recent months, and with hundreds of millions of XP users potentially up for grabs, Windows's PC market share could fall below 90% for the first time in recent memory.

Image credit: Nick Perla on Flickr.
Image credit: Nick Perla on Flickr.

In separate interviews, Forrester analyst David Johnson and Gartner analyst Michael Silver each told InformationWeek that Windows is more vulnerable in the consumer space than in the enterprise. Neither expects a major shake-up in the PC pecking order, though Johnson noted that both OS X and Chromebooks are eating into the Windows market, and that virtualization and tablets have given organizations the option to "replace a PC with something else."

3. IT service providers stand to make a lot of money.
Both Johnson and Silver noted that their respective firms have seen an increase in Windows XP-related inquiries in recent months. Research firms aren't the only ones seeing increased business as XP users scramble to upgrade or implement safeguards; IT vendors stand to gain as well.

Microsoft said last July that XP's end-of-service deadline represented a potential $32 billion service opportunity for its partners. The company probably hoped more of that money would be spent on new Windows 7 or 8 migrations, rather than attempts to fortify XP systems that will continue

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
3/21/2014 | 5:52:23 PM
Feds are still behind
We've been interviewing folks in the federal government market place and it looks like as many as 10% of government PCs are still running on Windows XP, and won't be ready to upgrade soon, in part because there isn't budget for newer equipment, or because XP is tied into larger systems that make it hard to upgrade the OS right now.
Madhava verma dantuluri
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Madhava verma dantuluri,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/16/2014 | 6:09:49 AM
XP
Not good that XP going off.
moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Ninja
3/15/2014 | 2:17:13 PM
Re: It just shows what a nice system it is
You are right: Yes it does. Most consumers did NOT like the infernal Ribbon interface of subsequent versions of Office after learning where everything was on the menus. It made finding things needlessly hard and took more mouse clicks to get the same thing done. As far as the desktop OS interface goes, Windows XP just works. I did like Windows 7's Aero Interface and thought it to be beautiful, but the same thing could have been added to XP. There has really been no "killer app" that cried out for a new OS, new interface, or even a new PC for most people. As long as they can get to Facebook and do email and the occasional Office document, they really don't need anything else. That is why so many millions are still running these old systems. There was never any compelling reason to upgrade.

For instance, I still run my old XP box about 80% of the time. It has all the software I need to do the things I do, including photo, audio, and video editing. The software was bought and paid for. Why should I have to throw all that away just because MS won't support an older operating system? The cost of that software (and the prospective costs of replacing it) far outweights the cost of a new PC.

So, at the end of the day, what to do? I'll start using my crappy new Windows 8.1 PC more I guess for online stuff, and because it runs the latest version of a 3-D CAD package I use for work called Solidworks, I'm stuck with it, whether or not I like Windows 8.1. In fact, last year when I bought this PC, Dell would NOT allow me to "downgrade" (I would have considered it an "upgrade") to Windows 7.

Anyway, I'm going to install Ubuntu Linux on my old XP box so I can still get it on the internet, and then relegate its XP use to off line work. I hate that. But at $92 for a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium, it just isn't worth upgrading. At least I won't be throwing it in a landfill anytime soon.
anon9512439948
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anon9512439948,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/14/2014 | 11:35:33 AM
It just shows what a nice system it is
I'm going to say something that will probably strike a chord with many average users:

Few people will see any personal benefit in anything past windows xp sp3 and Office 2003.

Updates after that were not for the sake of the user, they were for the sake of Microsoft. Change was not done to give users anythig gthey actually needed or wanted, but to make Microsoft more able to leverage money out of them.

I think huge numbers of users would like an xp and office 2003 style interface UI, with an continuously improved kernel and gradual adding of new features underneath.

It's a pity that Microsoft couldn't work out a way to make money doing that.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 6:19:34 PM
Fashion's moved off the desktop and left the building
If many people think XP on existing hardware is functioning just fine for them, it illustrates how status in computing devices has moved off the desktop and into the handheld device. It used to be it was cool to upgrade to a bigger hard drive and more RAM to run the latest version of Windows. Now, there's no point in bragging, "i just got a bigger hard drive." Instead, you boast, "I just got a bigger touch screen" in a smart phone.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 3:27:47 PM
Re: You can pry Windows XP from our cold dead computers
I can definitely appreciate that people are hesitant to dump their old computers, many of which must have been substantial personal investments at the time of purchase. The Ubuntu point is a good one; seems like old hardware might be reappropriated for schools or some similar purpose, rather than discarded.
moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Ninja
3/13/2014 | 3:24:40 PM
Re: You can pry Windows XP from our cold dead computers
Exactly, I agree. Seems many will be moving to cheaper tablets. But those that use their PCs for more than Facebook and light email will be aggravated at having to throw away a "perfectly good" PC and faced with buying not only a new PC, but also new software, or hopefully finding some freeware that serves their purpose.

I know several who have circa 2006 machines. They could upgrade to Windows 7 just fine, but they are unlikely to spend $92 to do it when a low end lap top can be had for around 3X that.

It's just that many of these people did spend serious amounts of money on these old PCs and are reluctant to let them go.

I still worry about so many of these machines ending up in our landfills when Ubuntu could be put on them and they could be run until the hardware really dies.

 

 
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/13/2014 | 2:36:48 PM
Re: You can pry Windows XP from our cold dead computers
Thanks for the comments. To be clear, I didn't mean that many will have "no choice" but to upgrade to another Windows OS. Rather, I meant that many will have to upgrade to something-- including (as the article discusses, and as your comment indicates) iPads. People won't use be able to use XP indefinitely.

Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on how you use your computer, how open you've been to replacing hardware components over the years while keeping the same computer; etc. But the more time goes by, the more people will leave XP either because it is too slow, too risky, or too limited compared to new options. Some XP systems might be "perfectly good," but when I see some of the antiquated machines people have hung onto (e.g. the ones that take 10 minutes just to wake from sleep), I'm often surprised. No, existing XP software won't stop working on April 9-- but if you have Office 2003, it'll lose support on April 8, just like XP. Can you get away with using XP in coming months? Certainly. Are you asking for trouble if you continue running Office 2013, an old version of Internet Explorer, and so on? I think so.

If someone who just browses the web and send emails has an XP system, I wouldn't suggest they spend $500 or $1000 on a new machine. A few hundred dollars on a tablet or low-cost laptop, however, is a different matter; for many people's needs, the cost of a computing device isn't what it was during XP's heyday.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Ninja
3/13/2014 | 1:49:21 PM
Re: You can pry Windows XP from our cold dead computers
Not only do they not need any new software they don't need any updates to the versions they have that are running just fine.
moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Ninja
3/13/2014 | 12:58:34 PM
You can pry Windows XP from our cold dead computers
The article states, "...many will eventually find they have no choice, due not only to increasing malware risks, but also the number of software vendors who will no longer update XP applications."

That is so wrong. Most people running older PCs ALREADY have all the software they need, an XP compatible version of MS Office, iTunes, an email client, plus assorted shareware and freeware (Audacity, Adobe Reader, Photoshop Elements, etc.) They have no need or WANT to blow a bunch of money on new software to do EXACTLY the same things they are already doing. Most simply want to get to Facebook. Do you need a new $500 to $1000 PC for that? Nope.

Pushing people to throw a half-billion perfectly good PCs in landfills ought to be a crime. Fortunately, some will move to Ubuntu or another flavor of Linux. Most could easily upgrade to Windows 7 but not Windows 8, since Windows 8 requires motherboards that support a security feature called Data Execution Prevention.

If Microsoft really cared about their customers and the Internet, they'd offer people running XP a nearly free upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium. It's current pricing at $92 is cost prohibitive for many people to spend on an old PC, expecially older people.

My neighbor is 73 years old. She has moved to an Apple iPAD and a wireless AirPrint printer. If Microsoft thinks many of these hold outs will rush out and buy new PCs with flaky Windows 8.1 on them, they can hold their breath until they turn Apple blue.

 
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