A large number of Microsoft customers are in for a rude awakening on 8 April 2014.
With less than 400 days to go, 15 per cent of those running Windows XP are still unaware that that’s the date Microsoft finally turns off all support for its legacy PC operating system, according to a recent survey.
After 8 April next year, Microsoft will no longer make bug fixes or security updates for Windows XP, meaning customers will be naked and vulnerable to hackers and viruses and on their own in terms of code updates and fixes. Support for Office 2003 also finishes on the same date, with the same implications.
The findings come from a survey of 250 strategic IT types by application migration specialist Camwood, which polled chief information officers, technology officers and IT directors at organisations that run more than 2,000 PCs.
Fifteen per cent is a decent chunk of the Microsoft customer base. Windows XP is still used on 39 per cent of desktops – just behind Windows 7 on 44 per per cent.
XP was first released in 2001. Since its release, Redmond has pushed out Vista (2006/7), Windows 7 (2009) and its most recent OS, Windows 8 (2012).
Where there is awareness of the end of support, Camwood found 32 per cent of XPers still have not started migrating to newer versions of Windows.
That means this group will almost certainly end up running Windows XP past Microsoft’s April 2014 cut-off, and be in exactly the same predicament in terms of vulnerability to hackers and malware - and of course won't be receiving any code fixes.
Kevin van Heerden, Camwood’s head of software, told The Reg there’s no chance that those who have yet to begin the process will be able to migrate in time. Even a basic migration of just 1,000 PCs would take more than a year, depending on application and data complexity.
“Windows XP is the hackers port of call in terms of trying to get a foot hold and establish botnets,” Van Heerden told The Reg. “They are opening themselves up to risk. It’s like letting your car insurance expire – the car won’t stop working, but you are exposed to a lot of risk.”
The application migration specialist blamed the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s frenetic push for consumer adoption of the new kit for the fact so many customers still don’t know about the end of support. The same was not true for previous versions of Windows, said Van Heerden.
Some customers are confused about whether to go with Windows 8 or Windows 7. This, of course, has implications from the perspective of the PC hardware that they will buy – whether it’s touch-enabled or not – and application migrations. This is adding another layer of decision-taking to the Windows XP migration debate.
“One customer said if you are going to push a new UI on employees, you might as well go all in and go Windows 8 rather than Windows 7,” Van Heerden said.
The software migration specialist says that in other organisations, there has been a grass-roots rejection of anything that takes end users away from their beloved Windows XP. “In a large percentage, they have had staff resistance – a grass roots saying they want to stay on Windows XP because they are familiar with it,” he said.
Van Heerden also said that there had been an absence of leadership from Microsoft on migrations, which he believed was caused by Redmond’s focus on consumers instead of businesses with Windows 8 - adding that the emphasis on product launches during 2012 had diluted messaging.
“There was a lot more buzz around the turn of the century because people were rolling Windows NT 4 and Year 2000 projects together, and there was an immense amount of IT experience. The move to Windows XP was a huge exercise on Microsoft’s part but last year was largest year in Microsoft’s history.
"With new versions of Windows Server 2012, operating system (Windows 8) and mobile, [Window XP migrations] are getting lost in the confusion,” he said. ®