The Windows XP launch was notable for many reasons. It was held in New York City less than two months after 9/11, which of course cast a pall over the proceedings—which I’m told were significantly scaled back because of the tragedy. The launch event was the first time I’d seen many, many Wi-Fi connections in one place, and of course since this was 2001, they were all completely open and unprotected.
As we debate Windows 8 and Microsoft’s aggressive push to multi-touch computing devices today, the firm’s decision in 2001 to enhance the Start menu and add what I unfortunately described as a “sea of blue and green” to the Explorer interface seems relatively tame by comparison. It was a big deal back then but at least old-timers could enable the “classic” desktop UI if desired.
But the biggest thing I remember about this time period, the thing that most people seem to forget, is that Windows XP landed with a thud. Within weeks, Microsoft discovered a massive security flaw in the UPnP (universal plug and play) technology that shipped in XP, a flaw that rippled through the company and eventually halted the development of its major platforms. Microsoft retrenched around its Trustworthy Computing initiative, eventually released Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2)—which was sort of a mulligan for the original release—and moved on, along with the rest of the industry.
Over a decade later, XP is the second-most used PC operating system, behind Windows 7, despite having been supplanted by three major OS releases since its launch. It’s the most popular PC operating system of all time. It’s still in use on millions of desktops, especially in corporations: over 300 million of them, if Net Applications’ latest usage share numbers are to be believed. And now, finally, XP’s lifetime is coming to a close.
One year from the day I write these words, on April 8, 2014, Microsoft will officially end support for Windows XP.
So what does that mean exactly? Does XP turn into the technical equivalent of Cinderella’s pumpkin coach and stop working?
“This means that customers and partners will no longer receive security updates to the operating system or be able to leverage tech support from Microsoft after this time,” Microsoft’s Erwin Visser writes in a recent post to the Windows for Your Business blog. Clearly, you need to upgrade to Windows 8. Or at least Windows 7.
Are you suggesting that your workforce isn’t modern enough for Windows 8 or Windows 7? How about with a price cut?
It’s not much, but Microsoft’s Get Modern site offers a few deals to small and medium-sized businesses, including 15 percent off to those that purchase both Windows 8 Pro and Office Standard 2013 together. (Good for up to 100 licenses, through June 2013.) A handful of HP and Dell portable computers are also on sale.
I’m not sure that’s going to make much difference. Anyone sitting on Windows XP today is there for a reason, and one has to imagine that all the low-hanging fruit in the migration space has been snagged over the past three years. Companies such as Browsium offer solutions for some common XP migration hassles, and big Microsoft partners including Dell can tackle jobs of just about any size. But it’s interesting to watch such a huge number of companies and users simply stop and stay put.
Windows XP, ultimately, is about the dark side of success, about what happens when something is so popular—or, at least “used”—that not using it becomes too difficult to even consider. Part of the reason isn’t so much the quality of XP as it was the huge delay in getting XP’s successor, Windows Vista, out the door. Announced to great acclaim as “Longhorn,” the eventual release of this product bore no relation to the promises, and the long delays (and, later, Vista’s high-end hardware requirements) caused Microsoft to keep extending XP’s life cycle. Nice Catch-22, that.
You’ve got one year to go. Why haven’t you upgraded yet? And what your plans for XP’s Armageddon?