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Users Protest XP Support Deadline

It wasn't supposed to end this way. Windows XP was supposed to be riding off into the operating system sunset by now, giving way to the new sheriff in town, Windows Vista. The end of XP's support lifecycle was supposed to be mostly inconsequential.

But it isn't. Analyst firm Forrester Research Inc. recently reported what most IT professionals already knew: Vista is a dud in the enterprise. The OS, released to businesses more than two years ago, runs fewer than 10 percent of PCs in companies in North America and Europe, said Forrester analyst Benjamin Gray in his late-January report.

Scaling Back Support
That makes the end of XP's support cycle a big deal for many IT professionals. And the first part of that cycle is ending this month. Microsoft will terminate "mainstream support" for XP on April 14, according to Microsoft's support Web site. "Extended support" will carry on until 2014, which means that security updates and paid support will continue for another five years.

But, the support site says, help such as non-security hotfixes, warranty claims, design changes, feature requests and -- most notably -- free incident support will be a thing of the past by the middle of this month. Not surprisingly, with XP still dominating corporate installations, some IT professionals aren't too happy about that.

"How long should Microsoft support XP?" asks Mitch Wheat, software developer for Beacon Technology Ltd. in Perth, Australia. "Simple! As long as it doesn't have a viable alternative."

And for many users, Vista still isn't that viable alternative. Microsoft should support XP "until Windows 7 comes out," says Joe Galgano, who operates a computer repair and network troubleshooting business in Dover, Del.

Echoing that sentiment is Edward Mumby, MCP, MCDST and SCA, based in Lake Geneva, Wis. "Since there seems to be such a nose turn at Vista, Microsoft should go ahead and bite the bullet of standing behind XP until Windows 7 has established itself as either good or bad," Mumby says. "By that point, I'm thinking that either Vista will be good enough -- with continued updates and patches -- to stand up on its own, or 7 will just settle in as the new XP replacement," he explains. Mumby doesn't anticipate that IT managers will implement either Vista or Windows 7 until one of them proves to be "stable and unshakable."

"As long as this isn't the case, then XP is still going to be the OS of choice for most administrators," he adds.

Maintaining Confidence
Not everybody in the industry, though, is bothered by the end of mainstream support for XP. "I think the scheduled end of life and support for XP is sufficient," says Robert Elliott, senior product salesperson for Microsoft OEM client computing at Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor Tech Data Corp. "XP has been out for a long time," Elliott explains. "It's already stable and happy and has lots of supporters and die-hard, don't-kill-it petitioners. 'Out with the old and in with the new,' I say! Vista is stable, secure and has better mobility than XP. Five years for [XP] support ... we should feel lucky."

About the Author

Lee Pender is executive editor, and Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine.

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