Microsoft Plans Windows XP End-of-Life Initiative

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Microsoft will end support for Windows XP next April, which will prompt tens of millions of small businesses and individual users to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8. The end of XP could spark a wave of PC and software purchases through the channel.

Most of the world is watching the market adoption of Windows 8, the latest operating system and first touch-enabled platform produced by Microsoft. However, Microsoft says millions of small businesses and tens of millions of individual users need to pay attention to their current operating system, Windows XP, as support for it will end a year from now.

Speaking at the Intel Solution Summit in Los Angeles this week, Microsoft’s Peter Han said as much as half of Windows XP users don’t know support is ending for the operating system in April 2014. Microsoft is launching an awareness campaign to inform XP users and stimulate migrations to newer platforms, such as Windows 7 or 8. Nearly 17 million businesses and 103 million end uses will be affected.

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Microsoft’s ending XP support doesn’t mean users won’t be able to use the operating system. The OS will still run; Microsoft just won’t provide patches, updates and technical support. Over time, XP users will become increasingly more vulnerable to performance and security issues.

Windows XP was launched in 2002 following Microsoft’s crash initiative, Trustworthy Computing, which was designed to clean up the Microsoft code base and eliminate thousands of common vulnerabilities that plagued the system. Windows XP was intended to be the most secure and functional operating system. XP also replaced the NT code base that was the hallmark of Windows 98 and 2000, and got many businesses to adopt Active Directory as a controller system.

“It’s a complement that customers have hung on to Windows XP, but the company has made a decision to move on from XP,” said Han, vice president of OEM operations at Microsoft.

Windows XP has remained in service far longer than ever intended. Businesses and many consumers shunned Windows Vista when it came out in 2007, as it was known as a bloated and underperforming operating system. Microsoft promoted Vista, saying at one point it sold more than 300 million licenses. However, Microsoft is all but ignoring Vista in the upgrade cycle, knowing businesses and individuals prefer Windows 7.

The XP wind down could provide a boost to the PC market, which has been steadily declining over the last year. In 2012, PC sales were down as much as 8 percent, despite Microsoft releasing Windows 8. By eliminating XP support, Microsoft is forcing a migration to Windows 7 and 8, which could bring an influx of new equipment sales for its OEM and reseller partners.

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