One of the big questions leading up to this month's expiration of support for Windows XP was whether the software giant would provide a last minute reprieve. As it turns out, it has, albeit secretly: I can confirm that Microsoft has drastically reduced the cost of its enterprise-oriented Custom Support Agreements (CSAs) for Windows XP, significantly lengthening the time frame in which these firms can continue using the ancient OS.
"We've made custom support more affordable so large enterprise organizations could have temporary support in place while they migrate to a more modern and secure operating system," a Microsoft statement admits in the wake of reports in Computerworld and ZDNet about this secret new policy.
Those reports are based in part on a Gartner research note that exhorted enterprises to renegotiate their XP CSAs with Microsoft because of available saving. But my sources tell me that the deals enterprises are getting on custom XP support are far better than seems possible. In fact, many companies are seeing a savings of over ten times. In one dramatic example, a large bank was able to haggle an $85 million annual contract for XP support down to just $3 million.
Microsoft's change of heart comes after a years-long game of chicken with its biggest customers. According to one source, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner returned from a series of customer meetings in early April and alerted the Windows team that far too many of these customers were affected by XP's support expiration and that the firm would need to "effectively give away custom support" to accommodate a lengthier transition to more modern Windows versions. This decision was literally made in the final week leading up to the April 8, 2014 "XPocalypse."
Naturally, these "Crazy Eddie" deals come with some stipulations: Those customers that do obtain rock-bottom pricing on XP CSAs need to develop and implement a plan for moving off of Windows XP, though it's unclear what the time frame is. Other reports have noted that there are also other parameters to these deals, including CSA "ceilings," though I've not heard about this independently.
It's worth noting, too, that these deals are only being offered to the world's biggest companies. If you're representing a small or medium sized business, or are an individual, you're still on your own.