Windows XP is not dead… but it will… soon…
By Charles Miller
This week all of Mexico celebrates El Día de Muertos. This most colorful of holidays is a joyful time to celebrate the lives of those have passed on and for most this is not a day to grieve but to give thanks. Perhaps this is as good a time as any for me to remind about one third of you personal computer users out there of a demise that will occur at your house next year.
Most makers of computer software have formal policies defining the “end of life” for their products. This is a date on which the company plans to end their support for an old version of their software because they believe, or hope, that their customers will have all moved on to using a newer and better version of the company’s product. For the management at Microsoft, this has not exactly worked out as they planned.
Microsoft’s Windows XP was arguably the best and most popular computer Operating System ever sold. In an industry where the typical lifespan of a piece of software is two or three years, XP continued year after year receiving upgrades and improvements while remaining incredibly popular. XP was superseded by Windows Vista then Windows 7 and now Windows 8; yet six years after being “discontinued” XP still holds onto about 30 percent of the Windows market. Back in the 1990s previous versions of Windows were so awful that users could not wait to get something better in the next version, but not so with XP in the 21st century. This has proved to be extremely frustrating to Microsoft as it tried to push new versions of Windows on consumers who were perfectly happy to continue using old XP.
Microsoft tried to kill off Windows XP in 2011 but was forced by the hardware industry to postpone the date. It appears now that XP has received its final stay of execution as Microsoft says it is holding firm to its commitment to discontinue support on April 8, 2014.
The significance of that date is that Patch Tuesday is always the second Tuesday of the month. This does not mean that Windows XP will quit working on that date; it just means that on future Patch Tuesdays there will be no more fixes for Windows XP. Without a doubt there are many cyber-criminals who have marked their calendars and are waiting to pounce as soon as XP is no longer supported. Microsoft has given fair warning that any security vulnerabilities discovered in XP after the end-of-life date will not be fixed and any user who tries to continue using XP needs to understand the ramifications of this. The nightmare scenario for XP users is that eventually some new security vulnerability will target XP. Depending on the severity of the problem, this could mean that suddenly and without warning XP users could find they will never again be able to safely connect their Windows XP computer to the internet.
Security is the reason why running old software is an inherently bad idea. The internet is infested with crooks and scam artists who are constantly discovering new and inventive ways to pick your pocket. If the software on the computer you use to access the internet is not kept up to date with security patches to address new vulnerabilities then you put yourself at risk. Windows XP is still a huge presence in the market, and next year it will become a massive target for attack. Later versions of Windows will also be attacked, but unlike XP those new versions will be upgraded to protect them as needed.
In the case of Windows XP Microsoft responded to consumer pressure and extended the planned 10-year life by 2 years, a move that many consider unwise pointing out that postponing the inevitable rarely makes it easier to confront. For those of you still using XP the end draws near. You now have 158 days and counting.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.