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Many Microsoft Products Losing Support After April 8, Not Just Windows XP

Today's April 8 date marks the end, not just for Windows XP, but for many other Microsoft software products as well.

Microsoft describes this phase as the end of "extended support," a concept that is explained in its product lifecycle FAQ. Products that pass beyond the extended support phase continue to function, but security issues don't get fixed by Microsoft in its monthly update releases, leaving machines potentially vulnerable to attacks.

Products Losing Support
Other products losing extended support on this day are Outlook 2003, Exchange 2010 Service Pack 2, SharePoint 2003, Project Server 2003 and Office 2003. They all lose extended product support on April 8, according to Microsoft's product lifecycle descriptions.

Microsoft offers a mini-FAQ for potentially disappointed Office 2003 users. For those organizations or individuals using the free Office viewer products based on Office 2003, Microsoft claims that they also have lost extended support. Users of those viewers should "upgrade to a later version such as Office 365 or Office 2013," according to Microsoft. Office viewers are useful for reviewing documents produced by different versions of the Microsoft Office suite.

Surprisingly, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 are not hitting their end-of-life product milestones today. They're still good till July 14, 2015, as noted by Microsoft MVP Aidan Finn, in a blog post.

Finn offered another list of other Microsoft products that have lost extended support today in a second blog post. Those other items include products such as InfoPath 2003, Visio 2003 and Virtual PC 2004, among others.

Death of Windows XP
Informally, Microsoft describes products that continue to be used after extended support as "rotting from the inside out."

Of course Windows XP will not stop working on this date but it will effectively be rotting from the inside out. You won’t be getting security updates, service packs, patches and will most likely have more support issues by continuing to run an OS that is not supported.

The exception is for organizations willing to pay for Microsoft's "custom support" option. Custom support is typically designed for larger organizations and can be relatively expensive. For Windows XP, the cost is $200 per device for the first year based on a minimum of 750 devices. However, that cost will then double after the first year of custom support, according to a description by Michael Silver, distinguished analyst and vice president at Gartner Inc.

As an example of that kind of cost, the U.K. government is paying Microsoft £5.5 million ($9.2 million) just to keep its Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 operations supported for another year, according to a BBC report.

Windows XP got its last few patches today, but nothing more will arrive through Windows Update to patch its flaws, and April 9 will represent a potential "zero day" forever security situation for Windows XP users, according to Microsoft. There are no reprieves expected to come from Microsoft, although antimalware signatures for Windows XP systems will continue to be delivered through July 14, 2015. The access to antimalware signatures will still leave systems potentially vulnerable to attacks, though.

Microsoft has offered migration help and security tips for Windows XP users from time to time, but some organizations just aren't making today's deadline. Silver recently estimated that about "20 to 25 percent of enterprise systems will still run [Windows] XP and that one third of enterprises will have more than 10 percent of their systems running on XP," according to a Gartner-produced Q&A about the end of Windows XP support.

Silver recommended getting rid of Windows XP as soon as possible. However, for those continuing to use the operating system, he suggested reducing user rights, Web browsing and e-mail use. He also suggested moving some important applications off Windows XP so that they run on a server instead.

Other tips for continuing to run Windows XP come from Neil MacDonald, vice president and Gartner Fellow. He offered 10 best practices for continuing to run the OS in an announcement.

Redmond magazine's own reader poll indicated that 23 percent of respondents plan to keep running Windows XP systems indefinitely. So, despite Microsoft's security talk, some users aren't budging, although they may be running some systems that aren't connected to the Internet, thereby reducing risks.

A scan of Web sites around the globe by Netcraft, a U.K.-based provider of Internet security services, found that 6,000 Web sites are still using Windows XP, including 14 U.S. government Web sites. The state of Utah is using a Webmail system based on Windows XP, it indicated.

Netcraft found that China wasn't using Windows XP much for Web sites, with just 3 percent use. However, the country still may have a large number of Windows XP desktop users.

Windows XP is effectually dead or can be considered a security bomb in waiting. Even Microsoft today seemed somewhat nostalgic for the near 13-year-old OS, quoting poet T.S. Eliot on "the beginning is often the end," in a security blog post. That's maybe appropriate with so many Microsoft products losing support today. Eliot also once described April as "the cruelest month," but in a different context.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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