Define "Support," Please
A number of IT pros I've heard from recently have mentioned that while end-of-life security concerns are legit, "support" is an ambiguous term. Several of them said they never contact Microsoft's technical support, so they won't miss it when it's no longer available for XP. But not every Microsoft customer is an IT pro.
Reader and business owner Ed wrote: "I have three towers running XP Pro for my company -- they came installed when purchased from Dell about six years ago. My main tower’s OS crashed. I took the tower to Microsoft's store in Scottsdale, Ariz. They said, 'Too bad, we no longer have the disk to reinstall.' My only option was to purchase Windows 7 and install it on a new tower. I checked my calendar and it is clear that it isn’t April 2014 as far as I can tell."
The Alternatives Have Improved
Rick wrote via email: "I'm an XP hanger-on -- of the 'if it ain't broke (mostly), don't fix it variety' -- and if Microsoft is going to force me to move to a new operating system, it very well may not be to [a newer version of Windows]. Android and Google look more and more appealing with the key factor being the potential for having my desktop business machine be compatible with my tablet and smartphone."
Once upon a time, ditching Windows meant either Apple or Linux for PCs. But the advent of Google's Chrome OS in conjunction with its Android OS for mobile devices has added another choice. The kicker here is that Microsoft's Windows 8 strategy is geared largely around exactly what Rick wants -- seamless movement between work and personal lives, no matter the device. It's just that he's not impressed on the tablet and smartphone front, where both Google and Apple had major head-starts.
"Microsoft has nothing in either category to measure up against Google and Apple. If they sustain and support XP and keep the old horse working and current, I'll continue to ride it for another couple of years at least. I don't need them to be compatible, but if I am to go through the torture of learning a new operating system, I will be giving money to their competitors who offer compatibility with my other personal technology. That's really a no-brainer."
Microsoft Should Reconsider Its End-Of-Life Approach
One reader thinks Microsoft should use XP's long-term popularity as leverage -- while avoiding potential PR damage -- by dropping the support cutoff in favor of sales promotions. Microsoft has already offered these kinds of deals, though the offers may need to get more aggressive.
"Francoman" wrote in a comment: "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 embrace Microsoft and partner Web applications and even upgrade the OS. I am sure these are budget-conscious 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 a HUGE number of people. If Ballmer cuts of 40% of his customer base, then he deserves to go."
Never Say Never?
The bottom line for XP fans: Microsoft's saying goodbye to XP even if many users are not. Microsoft isn't trying to sneak one past anyone here. The end-of-support date has been known for a long time. In fact, we already know when support will end for Windows 7 (Jan. 14, 2020) and even Windows 8 (Jan. 10, 2023).
Reader Neil asked via email: "What's the likelihood that Microsoft will extend the April 2014 date?"
You've got a better chance of seeing Steve Ballmer doing the foxtrot on Dancing with the Stars.
Join the conversation on Windows XP. Tell us why you're sticking with it or moving on, using the comments field below.