Paul Thurrott just published The Coming Windows XP Apocalypse reminding us that support, including security patches, for Windows XP is coming to an end. For a more in-depth examination on why you need to run from Windows XP as fast as you can see my blog entry from two years ago.
Last month I experienced just how difficult it was going to be to fully put the nail in the coffin of Windows XP. I went to the open house for a new hospital and when touring around noticed that their PCs were running Windows XP. That’s right, a new deployment of XP in a mission critical environment just months before all support for XP ends. Oh, and a new deployment in an environment with extreme privacy requirements. In an environment in which malware could quite literally cause loss of life. I tweeted about this and someone from Microsoft already went off to work on making sure the hospital had a migration plan in place.
No doubt a new deployment of Windows XP is not done because the IT department desired it. All controversy about Windows 8 aside, Windows 7 is something IT can and does have a love fest with. The problem is likely ISV software, and support for specialized hardware, that hasn’t yet made the migration to Windows 7. Or perhaps in this case, the hospital’s parent organization has a migration plan but this hospital was opening before the rest of the organization was ready to migrate. Let’s just hope they complete the migration in time.
There are a few points about Windows XP usage and what happens when support ends in April 2014 that I wanted to make.
First, the Netapplication numbers Paul used are worldwide numbers. Netapplication wants $300 to let you filter by country, which I think is fair except that I can’t justify paying them just so I can write a blog article. Using StatCounter data we see that July 2013 worldwide XP usage is 20.45% while US usage is 11.67%. Note how StatCounter and Netapplication (37% worldwide XP share) differ dramatically because of methodology. And the truth is that actual market share may be quite different than either of them report, because lots of systems in business are not used for web browsing (which is how both gather their data). All that matters is that Windows XP usage is still quite substantial no matter what the actual number or its source.
The worldwide numbers may greatly overstate the situation in individual countries or regions. For example according the StatCounter Windows XP remains the most used operating system in China at 54.69%. By contrast Australia is at about 9%. This also explains why the drop in Windows XP usage appears to be slowing. In some countries the move away from Windows XP is almost over while in others it has barely begun. And for the latter, often dominated by pirated copies, it isn’t clear that the loss of support holds much meaning. Thus they just aren’t moving!
I expect that in places like the U.S. there will be one more major downward move in XP usage before April 2014. The reason is simple, public company corporate governance requirements will force IT’s hand on the migration. Risk Management Departments are going to be making this a CEO-level issue as they understand, if they haven’t already, just how much exposure the organization is taking on by using Windows XP after April. And while not everyone will complete migration by April 2014, they will be well into migration by then. What we’ll be left with is the millions of personal or small business PCs where the owner just doesn’t care. And just as there is still usage of Windows 9x out there, there will likely still be some XP usage a decade from now.
One last thing I wanted to talk about was the comparison of the end of Windows XP support to Y2K. Sorry folks, there is no comparison. Y2K was about driving off a cliff while this situation is more like stopping maintenance on a bridge. Cracks will develop. Bolts will fall out. Rust will set in. But it will take years before the bridge actually collapses. And in the case of Windows XP, as long as security vendors continue to produce anti-malware software for it most cracks will be patched. Although with bubble gum rather than a weld. To switch analogies, after April 2014 leaks in dikes will be plugged with fingers rather than properly repairing the dike. Eventually fingers just won’t be enough, the dike will be breached, and the city washed away in a flood.
I think people are nuts to keep using Windows XP. I thought so the moment Windows 7 hit the market. With support ending in April 2014 there are no more excuses. And I still have hope that, at least in western countries, that corporate migration off of Windows XP will largely be complete by April 2014 or shortly thereafter. If your organization is not on track, you need to push it to get there.
As for moving individuals off of Windows XP? Well, maybe the upcoming holiday season should be all about giving your family and friends the gift of modern computing.