Neither perspective would adequately explain why so many of the world's computers still run on XP. It's a dozen years old and nearing the end of its so-called life -- which just means that Microsoft will soon end support for the operating system. No more security patches, bug fixes, driver updates, you name it -- all of that goes away on April 8, 2014, which poses potential risks for businesses and individuals who plan to stick with XP beyond that date.
Yet less than nine months from XP's retirement party in Redmond, one in three PCs still run the OS, give or take. OS usage statistics tend to vary based on a variety of factors. Microsoft estimates around 30% of its small and midsize business (SMB) customers still use XP; recent market share data from Net Applications said XP accounts for 37% of PCs around the world. These aren't exactly "margin of error" numbers.
Recent emails and story comments from InformationWeek readers shed some light on the Catch-22 that XP has become for Microsoft. XP has a been a whopping, enduring success -- so much so that its most loyal users have little interest in buying newer versions of Windows nor, in many cases, newer hardware.
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Here's what those readers have to say. (Note: Minor changes have been made to some responses to ensure clarity without altering content.)
We Just Like XP Better -- So Why Change?
Reader "sholden334" wrote in a recent story comment: "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?"
The Honda Civic Of Operating Systems
Likewise, Lee, an IT pro, wrote via email that he can't foresee any good reason to stop using his XP machine, especially when it's more reliable than his newer PC. "I still have an XP computer that is running fine. The original hard drive was dying and it was ghosted onto the current drive," Lee said. "It boots faster than my Windows 7 computer. Everything runs fine. Why should I get rid of it?"
In a piece a while back on my own Windows 8 hesitations, I felt oddly compelled to mention that I drive a 2002 Honda Civic. There might be something to the Civic mentality -- and some common ground with XP in terms of long-term reliability. By way of explaining his XP usage, Lee wrote: "I had a 1988 Honda Civic for 19 years and 140,000 miles because I turned the key and the engine started."
We'll Move When We Must (And Not A Moment Sooner)
"Moonwatcher" wrote in a story comment: "Businesses will move when they HAVE to. I'm still running XP on my main home machine. Why? Because I've spent hours and hours configuring programs to work as I want them. I'm not looking forward to repeating the process just to make Microsoft some money. I did have to buy a new PC recently to run a computer-aided design (CAD) program for work and unfortunately at the time, Dell would not allow me to get Windows 7, so I got stuck on (and hate) Windows 8. I only use that PC to run my CAD program. For all other things I use the old, reliable XP box."
We'd Love To Upgrade -- If Only It Weren't So Difficult
Some businesses would like to upgrade but find themselves stuck in a constant tug-of-war for resources. Roy Atkinson shared this hypothetical scenario in a story comment:
"If I am an application developer at a large, say, healthcare institution and 80% of the PCs 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."