Has Windows XP had its day?

Is it really now time to move away from an old operating system that while still good is perhaps past its best? Read on to find out…

There's an impending sense of doom in the IT community. For, less than 12 months from now, something many of us have relied on as a core tool to do our jobs will be taken from us.

It sounds unfair and cruel, but such is the world of software support. Come the 8th of April 2014, Microsoft will cease extended support for its still-very-popular Windows XP operating system.

Wouldn't it be great if the glory days lasted forever? But [the] reality is trophies get dusty, records are broken, and what it took to be the best 10 years ago, just isn't enough for today's standards. 

That's not to say we haven't had it good so far. Launched in August 2001 (with general availability in October that year), initial, widespread support ended in 2009. But Microsoft felt our pain and, in April 2012, offered a further period of extended support much to the relief of many IT administrators.

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Time for a change

"Wouldn't it be great if the glory days lasted forever? But [the] reality is trophies get dusty, records are broken, and what it took to be the best 10 years ago, just isn't enough for today's standards. Things get better, faster. And eventually, it's time to move from good enough to something much better," Microsoft's Stephen Rose said in a Windows blog post in July 2011.

"Windows XP had an amazing run and millions of PC users are grateful for it. But it's time to move on. Two reasons: 1) Extended support for Windows XP is running out in less than 1000 days, and 2) there's an OS out there that's much better than Windows XP."

But the pace of change can only be slowed for so long and now IT administrators and managers everywhere face a tough choice when they are essentially about to tackle the perils that come with an unruly teenager. Do you stay on a currently stable but soon-to-be-unsupported operating system? Or risk user grumbles, upheaval and increased costs by migrating to a newer one?

Let's be clear on a few things. End of support doesn't just mean the days of having someone to help at the end of the phone. It means, potentially, a more vulnerable OS as security patches will no longer be issued and, as such, the bad guys might see you and your data as an easy target.

Stuck in a rut?

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Analysts acknowledge that many of us are stuck in a rut with, depending on who you speak to, between 45 per cent and 60 per cent of organisations having moved far away from XP and similar ageing operating systems and over to Windows 7.

However, in large part thanks to the muted reception and appetite for Windows Vista XP's supposed successor that leaves a big chunk of organisations, and users still riding the XP train and speeding into uncertainty. Statistics published by Net applications in June 2013 placed Windows XP market share at just over one third (37.19 per cent).

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