• Explore the magic and the mystery!
  • The Tech Night Owl's Home Page



  • Discover the power of GraphicConverter 9



  • Is Microsoft Losing the Fight to Kill Windows XP?

    February 12th, 2014

    Imagine the dilemma Apple would face if the majority of Mac users still used the original version of OS X released in 2001. Of course that would be a near-impossible situation for the simple reason that most of the Macs still in service can't run that OS — it's too old. What's more, OS X 10.0 was little more than the second public beta for Apple's Unix-based OS.

    If you recall, it was somewhat feature limited. CD support was lacking, and printing was hit or miss. Performance was slow even on the fastest Macs. In those days, Apple didn't even support hardware acceleration for interface elements, such as Finder windows. This is why Apple held off making OS X the default system on new Macs. For a while, they'd ship with Mac OS 9 as the default, and OS X as the alternative primarily for testing purposes.

    Windows XP, also released in 2001, was decidedly different. After years of hits and misses, most everything coalesced into a pretty decent OS. After some service packs, it became reliable, fast, and not as malware-prone as earlier Microsoft operating systems. It's no wonder that the adoption rate soared, and it's been near impossible to convince tens of millions of Windows users to upgrade.

    According to a recent Web metrics report, which basically checks traffic on a number of sites around the world, Windows XP had a slightly less than 30% share of the global market. That number seems almost incredible, considering Microsoft has issued no less than three reference releases since then: Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 (now at version 8.1).

    Worse, PCs that don't go online, or only access private online networks (such as banks and merchant processing systems), aren't counted by such metrics schemes. It's reported, for example, that 95% of the ATM machines in the U.S. run on Windows XP. So the actual number of users may be far higher than that recent estimate.

    It's not that Microsoft hasn't tried to convince people to upgrade, but they haven't made it easy. For one thing, there's no simple installation scheme to go direct from Windows XP to, say, Windows 7, which is considered the best successor. Unlike the user experience on a Mac, if you want to take a PC running Windows XP — and let's assume the hardware is up to the task — to Windows 7, you basically have to rebuild the hard drive from scratch. That means wiping it clean, installing the new OS, and reinstalling all your apps. Of course, you have to make sure your apps are even compatible, so there may be the expense of buying and installing upgrades before you can get back to business.

    As you can see, consumers would probably prefer to just buy a new PC, and they are cheap enough if you're just interested in something for casual use, such as going online and managing email. That's the hope of PC makers, although Microsoft earns more revenue if you buy a retail OS upgrade. Manufacturers — or OEMS — pay far, far less for a Windows license.

    A business would probably create a master disk image for deployment across a company's network. But there still has to be extensive testing to make sure that the mission-critical software needed by the company is compatible, not to mention peripheral drivers.

    In my travels, I still see PCs running Windows XP in business environments. From medical and legal offices to dry cleaners, if something works, why switch?

    Microsoft's latest effort to dump Windows XP is to stop support as of April of this year, but such deadlines have slipped before. You also wonder why they haven't offered a simple upgrade path. Other than buying a new Windows PC with the latest OS preloaded — and HP is now offering Windows 7 because Windows 8 is a non-starter — why should any individual or company go through the horrendous upgrade process? Forget the purchase price.

    While Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella, has a lot on his plate to remake the company for the 21st century, one of his key jobs ought to be finding a way to persuade customers to abandon Windows XP. Just saying it won't be supported isn't sufficient, although some businesses will take the hint and get with the program.

    Now I know Microsoft doesn't care what I have to say, although some of their people do visit this site. My suggestion would be to offer both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 as a cheap upgrade — say $29.99 — for people who are still using Windows XP. The special upgrade kit would only function on those older PCs, and would include a special installer that would handle whatever needs to be handled to simplify the process for even the novice PC user.

    Such an installer might require that you run an analysis tool first to determine what apps and peripheral drivers you need to upgrade, or replace. I suppose Microsoft could strike deals with key peripheral makers and app developers to get you free or inexpensive upgrades that could even be included as part of the OS upgrade process.

    This may seem rather complicated. But, other than convincing tens of millions of PC users to dump their computers and buy new models, what can Microsoft do? This sorry situation is complicated by the fact that people aren't buying as many PCs as they used to. I suppose many Windows users might use the occasion to buy a tablet instead. For Microsoft, it's late in the game. Nadella can prove his mettle by putting this problem at or near the top of his agenda and announcing a solution that actually works.



    Share
    | Print This Article Print This Article

    6 Responses to “Is Microsoft Losing the Fight to Kill Windows XP?”

    1. […] “Is Microsoft losing the fight to kill Windows XP?: Imagine the dilemma Apple would face if the majority of Mac users still used the original version of OS X released in 2001. Of course that would be a near-impossible situation for the simple reason that most of the Macs still in service can’t run that OS – it’s too old.” —Read the article on technightowl.com > […]

    2. DaveD says:

      Why would any XP users upgrade? What are the benefits, the must-have features?

      I can see from their view that there is no rush. What is the point to go through the hassles when XP is good enough? XP has been updated so often and has been operating for a decade that it is better to let it be (don't fix if it ain't broke). They know what they have, a working PC that needs only security updates. Unless the upgrade to Windows 7 is free, why buy. I would Just let the PC die of old age and get a Mac or an iPad as a replacement.

      Then it would be a rewarding experience working on a platform that gets out of your way.

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @DaveD, Microsoft's threat is no more security updates. But the price of upgrading — the exorbitant cost of the upgrade kit and the need to rebuild your drive to install Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 — is not getting the attention it deserves.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. dfs says:

      "As you can see, consumers would probably prefer to just buy a new PC, and they are cheap enough if you're just interested in something for casual use, such as going online and managing email. That's the hope of PC makers, although Microsoft earns more revenue if you buy a retail OS upgrade." Let's turn this upside-down. We read that PC sales are seriously slumping. To an extent, of course, this is due to other factors, such as the availability of tablets. But maybe another reason is that potential purchasers are shying away precisely because they don't care to be stuck with a new form of Windows they don't want or feel they need. If PC manufacturers get the idea this is driving the slump, they must be putting tremendous pressure on Microsoft to do something about it.

      And, Gene, even if MS gets more profit out of upgrade sales, such a large percentage of copies of Windows sold must be pre-installed ones that slumping PC sales must be seriously hurting its bottom line. I'm glad I'm not Nadella!

    4. Aardman says:

      "My suggestion would be to offer both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 as a cheap upgrade — say $29.99 — for people who are still using Windows XP. The special upgrade kit would only function on those older PCs, and would include a special installer that would handle whatever needs to be handled to simplify the process for even the novice PC user."

      My guess is developing this modified Windows is more than just a minor tweak (no such thing on any OS surgery), installing it will never be easy, and the support calls that Microsoft will have to field to help the stumped users will cost more than the $29.99 that you suggest they charge for the 'simple' OS upgrade.

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @Aardman, Never suggested it was a minor issue. But if Microsoft can sell 30 or 40 million copies at $29.99, each, soon there's an income stream. It's very likely that, without a solution, many people, who aren't in the market for a new PC, will stick with what they have.

      Peace,
      Gene

    Leave Your Comment