Microsoft has gone a step further to purport the arrival of the upcoming Windows 8 operating system by declaring that post April 8, 2014 they will be withdrawing support for Windows XP. This gives home users and business enterprises two years to complete their migration from the OS that has been around since August 24, 2001. Over a decade, Windows XP has established itself as a firm favorite of Windows users all over the world.
According to Net MarketShare reports for March 2012, Windows XP users amount to 46.86% of the total market share of desktop operating systems in use. Around 92% of desktop users work on the Windows platform, so XP’s share is a fairly large chunk of that market. Windows 7 is close behind with 37.54% users preferring it. This implies that the migration effect that Microsoft wishes to set in place will not be as intensive as it may seem at first. Nevertheless, a majority of users will need to start planning their shift from Windows XP. Let’s take our home turf for that matter, the pie-chart below shows the OS distribution of Quick Heal customers.
63% of our customers are still functioning on Windows XP, making it imperative for us to inform them about this impending change. This is a fairly large user base that will be susceptible to a high amount of risks once the sell-by date of XP has passed, so our recommendation is to start planning a migration strategy as soon as possible. 15% of users have updated to the Windows XP SP3, while 48% are functioning on XP SP2. Users from this base who are running on 32-bit versions are advised to switch to SP3 immediately, whereas 64-bit users can continue to function on SP2 till support for XP is available.
Microsoft has high hopes for Windows 8, which is expected to be released around October 2012 and has revamped all the layers of the OS. Along with the traditional x86 microprocessor architecture, the new OS will support the ARM processor architecture as well in order to keep up with the latest trends in the market. Even the UI of the operating system has been upped to the Metro UI which is commonly seen in the latest Windows Phone mobile OS. Microsoft intends to ship this latest operating system on personal computers and tablets as well. Closing down the support for Windows XP is a noteworthy attempt by the Redmond based manufacturer to highlight the immense potential that Windows 8 promises to bring. This news was first announced by Microsoft in October 2011 and there is a full-fledged two year countdown to set the demise of XP firmly into place. Along with Windows XP, Microsoft will also be closing support for Office 2003 on the same date.
What does this imply?
What this inadvertently means, is that home and enterprise users will no longer receive updates to their OS once the aforementioned date has passed. These updates are crucial for the smooth functioning of the OS as they bring with them security updates for protection against the latest viruses and they also provide the latest device drivers and software that maintain the reliability of the machine. In addition to the security and compliance risks, a lack of Independent Software Vendors (ISV) and hardware manufacturer’s support will also afflict potential users. If you have been regularly updating your Windows XP Service Packs then you should ideally be on SP3 since the support for SP2 ended on July 13, 2010 (this is valid only for 32-bit versions and 64-bit versions will continue to run on SP2). Continuing to work on an OS that is not officially supported can make your machine highly vulnerable to the latest trojans, malware, spyware and other harmful programs. Moreover, it can also considerably slow down the machine and affect its reliability since the latest device drivers will not be present on the machine.
Stella Chernyak from the official Microsoft blog says “Windows XP and Office 2003 were great software releases for their time, but the technology environment has shifted.” She later adds “Not only is it important for companies to complete deployment before support runs out, but they should also be aware that by upgrading to Windows 7 and Office 2010 today they can gain substantial results today while laying the foundation for future versions of these products.” While it is advisable to shift to Windows 7 for the interim period, the two year window is to prepare businesses and enterprises for a shift to the revolutionary Windows 8 instead. While it is fairly easy for home users to migrate, how the enterprises and businesses navigate remains to be seen.
Microsoft released a Support Lifecycle Policy in 2002 that took a lot of customer feedback into consideration in order to help large enterprises and smaller sized businesses plan their migration to newer operating systems more effectively. According to their facts and figures, the average enterprise deployment can take between 18 months and 32 months to complete so this announcement gives companies enough time to plan their migration and deployment strategies effectively. Moreover, the policy states that Microsoft is obliged to provide a minimum of 10 years support (5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support) at the supported service pack level. So the time is now ripe for Microsoft to begin a shift that will ultimately comply with their long-term strategy of embedding Windows 8 uniformly across all platforms.
While not many fans of Windows XP will be happy about this piece of news, it certainly should not come as a surprise. XP has been one of the most stable and loved operating systems by people from all around the world, but the time to say goodbye is slowly drawing near. By closing down support for XP, Microsoft will finally usher in the next wave in their massive OS history.