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Reader Survey: Many Will Run Windows XP Indefinitely

I was in a hotel lobby last week and saw a kiosk that had obviously suffered a system crash. It wasn't showing the dreaded blue screen of death but it displayed Windows XP powering down. The kiosk apparently froze while trying to reboot. Since it most likely runs Windows XP Embedded, I suspect whoever maintains that hotel's kiosks has no immediate plans to upgrade the operating systems before April 8th -- the last day Microsoft will issue a patch for the aging OS.

Now that Microsoft last month gave Windows XP Embedded a two-plus year reprieve, it will likely live awhile on the numerous kiosks and ATMs running the version of the OS designed for specialized devices. But next month's deadline still holds true for the 30 percent of PCs still running Windows XP. In fact the percentage of systems running Windows XP appears to have inched up a notch.

Indeed many banks, hospitals, schools, government agencies, offices of all sizes and consumers have just one month left before they are running a version of Windows that is no longer supported by Microsoft. It joins the graveyard of its predecessors that include Windows ME, Windows 98, Windows 95, Windows 3.x and others.

Only 28 percent of Redmond magazine readers no longer have any systems running Windows XP. More than 3,000 responded to our online survey, which in itself underscores how many of you have something to say about this. The overwhelming response is triple the amount of readers who weigh in on or most popular surveys. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23 percent) have no plans to retire their Windows XP systems. Only 16 percent were scrambling to migrate while 25 percent planned to do so at some point (but it isn't a major priority) and 8 percent haven't decided what they're going to do.

Why are so many organizations sticking to their guns and planning to run an aging operating system that will put themselves at risk? It has nothing to do with the fact that Microsoft said in January it will continue to offer antimalware signatures for another year. Microsoft's free Security Essentials tool will no longer protect Windows XP systems, though third-party endpoint protection software providers such as Bit9, McAfee and Symantec say they will offer some options (though those vendors do advise upgrading).

Even though 35 percent in the Redmond survey said their Windows XP machines aren't connected to the Internet, 7 percent said that was the justification for sticking with it. The largest portion of respondents, 39 percent, said they have applications that can't run on newer operating systems such as Windows 7 or Windows 8. Here were some reasons respondents gave for planning to keep their Windows XP-based systems running after April 8:

  • XP suits the needs of our applications.
  • Running 16-bit apps and cannot afford to upgrade.
  • XP is the last bearable OS Microsoft has produced.
  • Hardware cannot run new OSes.
  • Management isn't ready to deal with the upgrade hassle yet.
  • They're running apps that can't run on any newer OS AND they work well.
  • The physical hosts are never connected to the Internet, and therefore nether are the guests.
  • There may come a time to move completely off XP, but security is not a factor in the decision.

One university had the most intriguing reason: to teach students what an unprotected system can do. "Indeed, we are keeping some XP (virtual) machines in order to teach cyber security courses."

Windows XP is a victim of its own success. Many are passionate in their position that Windows XP was the best and most-stable operating system Microsoft ever released. I felt that way until Windows 7 came out, which, while far from perfect, was much more stable and reliable than Windows XP or Windows Vista. But I don't have any critical hardware or software that won't run Windows 7, which is the overwhelming destination for those who are migrating.

The majority (85 percent) plan to deploy Windows 7 systems while 36 percent will deploy Windows 8 (multiple answers were permitted on this question). Those that are deploying or supporting Windows 8 seem to be doing so in most cases for the handful of executives and power users preferring the touch-based OS that runs on both PCs and tablets. As I noted last month, while Delta Air Lines is deploying 11,000 Windows 8 RT-based tablet PCs in their aircraft, on the ground it's upgrading office workers and gate agents with Windows 7-based PCs. A few hundred execs are getting Surface Pros running Windows 8 Pro.

Regardless of where you stand with Windows XP, the end is near for its support but it doesn't appear we'll have seen the last of it for many years to come.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/07/2014 at 12:13 PM


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