With Windows 7 now totally out of the question, I considered trying Vista but didn't have any licenses available for it. That's because I tend to live by the saying, "Friends don't let friends use Vista." However, I do have quite a few Windows XP licenses from decommissioned PCs and there is no question that all of this hardware supports it. That hardware still has plenty of life left in it -- as long as it's using XP.
So with my available hardware dictating Windows XP, I checked with my friend to see if using such an "ancient" operating system might cause trouble with the company's software. This is where the software side of XP's lease on life becomes apparent. It turns out that their mission-critical line-of-business software can support Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP but not Vista or Windows 7. Here I was concerned about installing an old XP operating system, but I'd be hard pressed to find a Windows 98 PC in 2011.
So with a mere three years to go before Microsoft is supposed to drop support for XP, this company does not even support the five-year-old Vista. I suspect a lot of companies are like this one: Stuck with old hardware that can't handle Windows 7 even if they could upgrade, not wanting to buy new PCs when the old ones still work, and saddled with line-of-business applications that don't support Windows 7. Windows XP is a dam holding back a pile of hardware and software issues, and the dam is supposed to break in 3 years.
If XP really does ride off into the sunset in just three years, the good news is that the technology industry is going to see a boom of activity in the near future. Companies like this one will need to change not only their operating system, but also all of their crusty old applications. That would be great news for PC sales, Windows licenses, and applications developers. The tech industry is going to be rich, I tell you, rich!
Realistically, though, I can tell you that if push comes to shove, there is no way this large organization (and many others) can be pushed to spend a fortune on new PCs, operating systems, and applications in the next three years. XP isn't the greatest anymore, but it is working well enough for them. As far as priorities go, it seems like the company would need to deal with the problem that it can't run its line-of-business apps on Windows 7 as the first step. Given the lead times in large organizations like this, it leads me to think that there is no way Microsoft will be able to retire XP support in 2014.