Did You Get the Memo?

Did you get the memo? You know, the one that went out about the end of support for Microsoft Windows XP that took effect on April 8, 2014. What month is it now? Oh, that’s right; it’s July. So why in the world should there still be news about the end of Windows XP? Well, for one reason, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to anti-malware signatures and engines for the stragglers though July 14, 2015. Yet, shouldn’t end of life for Windows XP mean that it is the end of all aspects, and we should let Windows XP rest in peace?

Now, that might be the case, but it seems that people are not quite ready to say goodbye to a dear friend they have known for the last ten years. “How many people,” you ask? I found an interesting breakdown in a Network World post. In it, Bitdefender shared some results of its survey of more than 5,000 companies in sectors including education, industry, retail, and medical:

“18% of small businesses are still using XP while 53.4% run Windows 7 Professional. The rest used a mix of Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Ultimate, and Windows 8.1 Pro.”

I have always believed that XP has been one of the best operating systems that Microsoft has out, but it seems that it has established an almost cult-like following. These devotees have helped find tweaks that trick the Windows update server into delivering patches and updates. According to a separate report from the Internet measurement company Net Applications, 29.5% of the globe’s PCs ran XP in February. In this report, Net Applications uses an estimate of the number of PCs that are currently in use and operation; this breaks down to a user share of approximately 488 million Windows XP systems in operation. The report also seemed to indicate that approximately 300 million of the Windows XP machines originate in China.

Have you ever heard of any other product whose customers or user base just refused to let go and move on, on this kind of scale? I would like you to think about this little tidbit. Almost 30% of PCs across the globe are not getting patched and are ripe for the picking going forward. That is almost 488 million machines. What effects will this problem have on the Microsoft ecosystems as a whole? Will these unpatched Windows XP machines become the gateways by which havoc will be wreaked on the underlining infrastructure that makes up the bread and butter of one of Microsoft’s core businesses?

That said and taking into account the fact that we are in uncharted waters, I think that Microsoft should perhaps reconsider completely walking away from Windows XP. I believe Microsoft’s reputation is on the line. When a major exploit that affects these Windows XP machines occurs, how many people will listen to Microsoft’s explanation that it only affects an end of life operating system, when one in every three to five PCs are still running Windows XP? Can you say PR nightmare? I am not quite sure Microsoft will be able to deliver its message effectively, and it seems likely it will end up with at least a black eye, if not more.

In almost any business you walk into, you can see a sign indicating that the customer is always right. Customer service, plain and simple. Now, there are just too many customers who are not willing to conform, and there is something to be learned from that. Microsoft, you created a great product—one of your best. Now, work and listen to your users, and leave them some kinds of options to hold on to. Sooner or later, the users will need to replace their machines, and I am sure that when there are no hardware drivers that work with Windows XP, they will move on. It may not be within the time frame you are looking for, but the end result will be the same.

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