The myth of the Windows XPocalypse

Sting performing at the launch of Windows XP in 2001. Source: Microsoft



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9 April 2014 | 0

April 8 2014 was supposed to be the day that Windows XP died. In light of all the reports in newspapers, online, on the radio and on TV (as well as the press releases clogging the inboxes of journalists throughout the land), you could be forgiven for thinking that anyone who doesn’t know of the passing of Microsoft’s venerable OS must have been living on a far flung planet on a remote galaxy. Actually, they could be living next door to you.

Estimates vary as to how many PCs still run XP but there’s no doubt it is still widely used with some suggesting as many as 27% of PCs still have the operating system installed.

There have been all manner of articles explaining what people should do if they still have XP on their PCs now that Microsoft has ended support for the operating system. Research companies and technology businesses are busy urging users to switch OS as soon as possible even as governments, including Ireland’s, have reached their own deals with Microsoft to extend support for their ageing XP-based machines for another year.

Now, aside from the issue of whether users should have done something to ensure they had moved off XP, you have to wonder why so many are still on it and what that says about how effective Microsoft and its partners have been in getting the message across that users needed to ditch XP.

It may well be that individuals have been slow to take the dire warnings of what will happen after 8 April on board because they are, for the most part, not very interested in what does or doesn’t happen to a version of Windows. After all, lots of people are slow at installing security updates so it’s no surprise if they have been slow to realise that XP won’t be getting any more, ever.

But you can’t really say the same about enterprises and governments given that they usually have a much closer relationship with Microsoft and its partners. So, if they have been slow to move off XP despite all the talk of an imminent security apocalypse, you have to wonder if there’s something else at play here.

My suspicion (and it is only a suspicion) is that some organisations and individuals have refused to conform to Microsoft’s timetable for the destruction of its OS because they don’t believe the terrifying predictions that their systems will suddenly collapse overnight. This scepticism may, in part, be traceable to the days of the infamous Y2k bug when organisations were dragooned through a mixture of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to spend billions fixing something which, even to this date, no one knows for sure needed fixing in the first place.

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that the fact XP is still installed on so many PCs worldwide may be partly a consequence of the industry’s over-reliance on hype (positive and negative) to fuel its activities. I’m not sure people believe the industry’s awful prophesies any more just as they surely cast a more jaundiced eye on the grandiose claims the pedlars of technology make for their latest (and greatest) products.

They may well pay the cost for their distrust in the days, weeks and months to come until they finally move away from XP. But they may be banking on someone coming in to provide the support they need. And I’m willing to bet someone will step into the breach to do so if that’s what they want. After all, who would voluntarily refuse to have anything to do with supporting users of the second biggest desktop operating system in the world?

There will come a time, obviously, when there are few, if any, PCs running XP in the world but despite all the efforts of the doom and gloom merchants, that time is not 9 April 2014.

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