Feature

Computers: RIP, Windows XP

By announcing the end of technical support, Microsoft is finally pulling the plug on its 13-year-old operating system.

Start waving goodbye to Windows XP, said Tom Warren in TheVerge.com. By announcing the end of technical support, Microsoft is finally pulling the plug on its 13-year-old operating system. That means no more software updates or security patches, even though 30 percent of desktop computers still run XP, as do an astounding 95 percent of the world’s ATMs. That could be a “costly headache for ATM manufacturers and banks” as many will have to sign custom support contracts to keep their systems secure. But “despite the presence of a countdown clock” on Microsoft’s website, said Hiawatha Bray in The Boston Globe, “XP won’t turn into a pumpkin at midnight.” Die-hards can continue using XP, relying on third-party developers for software and security. But why bother? “For most of us, a full-fledged Windows upgrade is the right move.” Newer versions offer built-in file-transfer applications, which will help migrate old files onto a new machine. XP had a good run, and while it “seems as reliable as my old Ford Taurus” for many users, “it’s really more like the Ford Pinto, that 1970s car with a bad habit of bursting into flames.” Unfortunately, “the fire department’s about to close. Time to move on.”

It might not be so simple, said Brendan Nystedt in USA Today. For many home users, upgrading may be a no-brainer. But “the leap from XP to a more recent version of Windows can be a daunting proposition for big businesses.” IT policies, unique devices, or software might make the switch “prohibitively costly” for many companies. Still, XP has overstayed its welcome. The operating system’s “extremely long shelf life came courtesy of a perfect storm of events,” including delays, poor reception, and a disappointing adoption rate for its successor, Windows Vista. And “once the aging OS stops getting critical security patches, using an XP-based computer online will be as dangerous as taking a Roman chariot onto a busy L.A. freeway.”

If Microsoft wants users to embrace newer versions of Windows, there’s one surefire strategy, said Gregg Keizer in ComputerWorld.com: give them away. Apple did just that with the launch of its latest operating software, OS X 10.9 Mavericks, and user adoption rates skyrocketed. And getting users onto the latest system is good for the goose and the gander as it protects users from security flaws, is less burdensome on developers who want to make products as widely compatible as possible, and helps Microsoft generate more revenue from other products like Skype and Microsoft Office, which are increasingly “tied to the newest versions” of its OS.

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