The XP issue: whose problem is it really?



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18 September 2013 | 0

About three weeks ago, there was a story on TechCentral headlined China’s massive XP headache which suggested that China faced a big problem because three-quarters of all PCs in the country were still running XP eight months before it was due to be killed off by Microsoft.

I have to confess that my initial reaction was slightly different in that I perceived it to be as much Microsoft’s headache as China’s because no matter how hard-line the software company was over its commitment to end all support for XP after 8 April 2014, it surely wouldn’t want to run the risk of antagonising so many users (and future upgrade customers) in such a large market.

If Microsoft should persist in a blanket refusal to extend support for XP, the city of Munich may have given some people and municipalities in China another option to consider: switch to Linux. The authorities in Munich have decided to make 2,000 CDs of Ubuntu available through the city’s libraries to people running XP on their PCs.

With minimum system requirements of 64Mb RAM and 5Gb of storage space and a whole load of software included such as the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird e-mail client and the LibreOffice productivity suite, you can see the possible attraction for those people in no hurry to buy a new home PC.

Of course, Munich has form in this regard as it has been a strong supporter of open source software for a while now. Since 2003, in fact, when it took the decision to migrate to Linux. It is currently in the process of completing the migration of 15,000 PCs in 22 departments from Windows and Office to its own brand of Linux, known as LiMux. At present, there are around 13,000 LiMux PC workstations in Munich.

According to its own estimates published last year, the city of Munich has saved over €11 million to date compared to the costs of migrating to Windows 7 and Office 2010 <>.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see whether the Munich Ubuntu initiative will generate much of a response from XP users there. Might it prompt similar moves from public authorities in other countries, such as Ireland for example? I doubt it. Which is a pity because the cost of providing an alternative through public libraries for people who want to get off the Windows upgrade treadmill can’t be that high.

And whatever your thoughts on the viability of open source OS on the desktop, it can’t hurt to give people a simple way of trying it out for themselves. Especially when you consider that most of those PCs running XP probably won’t be able to run Windows 8. If it’s a choice between throwing a machine away and keeping it going, there are bound to be some who choose the latter.

But it’s not going to happen, If there was a viable market for Linux on the desktop, some enterprising retailers would consider offering free CDs of Ubuntu or another Linux alternative to XP users if only to develop a relationship that could, in the future, lead to more sales. But that would be counter-intuitive when it will probably be much easier to scare customers into replacing their XP machines with new Windows 8 ones between now and 8 April next year.

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