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As kill-date nears, 25% of NZ business PCs are still on Windows XP

UPDATE / Nov 6: As the kill-date nears for the 13-year-old Windows XP, Microsoft says 377,000 PCs in NZ are still running on the 13-year-old operating system software.

The company says the total includes 18.8% of all personal PCs and an astonishing 25.3% of PCs used by businesses.

After several last-minute stays-of-execution, Microsoft says it will be curtains for real on April 8 next year (or almost curtains, large corporate customers will be able to pay for patches).

After April 8, 2014, no more security fixes will be released for the ancient but still popular OS. That means Windows XP PCs will be vulnerable to malware, Microsoft says.

Although clearly still popular with its business customers, Microsoft says XP has done its dash.

Microsoft NZ Windows Business Group Manager Dean Edwards says the operating system was designed for a different world. It can't handle today's security and data privacy expectations. He adds that a lot of software - he gives the examples of Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft's own Office 2013 - cannot be installed on a PC running Windows XP.

Microsoft has set up a website to help people make the transition to its new Windows 8 (some corporates are angling for the older Windows 7).

Still, for some organisations it's going to be wrenching. As your NBR reporter moves around his community, from the local primary school to Bunnings Warehouse, XP is everywhere.

Windows XP will live on after its official kill date in April, 2014 - but only for some

UPDATE / Aug 27: Reports of Windows XP's demise have been greatly exaggerated, says Computerworld.

The IT paper says the April 14, 2014 kill date - after which there will be no more security updates, potentially putting hold-outs in peril - does not apply  to some customers.

Which ones? The ones with a lot of money. For $US200 per PC, Custom Support contract holders will be able to get "critical" bugs and security flaws fixed - but will be have to pay extra to get merely "important" fixes, while problems rated "moderate" won't be addressed at all. And that's just $US200 for starters. It will increase each year after the first year.

Microsoft calls time on Windows XP, still used on 500,000 NZ computers

April 9: As a 12-month clock ticks before it discontinues support for Windows XP on April 14 next year, Microsoft NZ says 500,000 computers in New Zealand still run its old operating system.

Windows XP was first released in 2001, and has since proved its successors' biggest competition.

Everyone from big organisations to your correspondent's local primary school have stuck with the stable, reliable XP as Windows Vista, Windows 7 and now Windows 8 have arrived.

Now, Microsoft says that in one year's time, it will no longer provide support for XP. Among other things, that means no more security or bug fixes.

Hold-outs may now feel under pressure to finally upgrade - although some will note Microsoft has been calling time on XP since 2008, only to constantly grant the venerable OS a last-minute reprieve.

This time, it could finally be curtains. Microsoft NZ managing director Paul Muckleston says while it has proven one of the most popular operating systems in his company's history, the decade-old XP was imply not designed to face today's cyber-attack and privacy challenges.

Go support-less?
If you're happy with XP, can you just stick it out regardless, and live without Microsoft supporting your software?

"Users definitely need to ensure they're still getting security updates for their computers," Institute of IT Professionals NZ CEO Paul Matthews tells NBR.

"Given the large user-base, there is a chance Microsoft may feel obligated to extend support. But either way, it's time for those using Windows XP to change."

He adds, "In the case of business, it might also be a good opportunity to review their wider technology systems as well, to see if there are ways they can do things more efficiently. This might include both operating systems (of which there are choices) but also broader software in use (for example accounting software, point of sale, office suite, core systems, etc). We would recommend having an independent professional (such as those accredited with ITCP Certification) conduct this review."

Microsoft vs Microsoft?
Don Christie, a director of IT services company Catalyst and past president of the NZ Open Source Society, was not so much fussed that Microsoft was putting a deadline on XP support as the fact our government is often focussed on Microsoft vs Microsoft solutions.

"There is a huge issue with lack of real platform choice for government agencies," Mr Christie told NBR this morning.

"They are trapped on a dead end platform with nowhere to go except another dead end. The current move to 'desktop as a service' (DaaS) has simply compounded the problem. The DaaS RFP, as issued recently by DIA, insists that all vendors on the final panel have to support Microsoft platforms. This ensures continuing the platform lockin with its associated risks, lost opportunities and excessive costs."

Beyond the desktop, Microsoft has faced challenges, however.

And all-of-government web platform tender was won by Wellington company Silverstripe, which develops open source web software. An Apple supplier panel has been appointed for all-of-government business. And Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees - who all sit on the new all-of-government mobile panel, have favoured a variety of smartphones and tablets; iPhones and iPads in the case of Vodafone's massive NZ Police contract.

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

I wonder where the virus will come from that will make the vulnerabilities happen?
Maybe a service pack 4 will help... LOL

About time, too. The only thing XP still has going for it is that at least it's still better than Vista.

Every time I see an XP machine to support these days I hold my head in my hands. For I know it will be ancient, most likely unpatched, dusty on the inside and grinding to a halt as the owner asks me why it can't do the Facebook (or the Google, or run the latest version of Adobe Suite).

You sound like many other "geeks"; you only want to "service" and invoice on machines that have nothing wrong with them.
Maybe you should get a real job.

What I want is for my customers to get the best possible benefit out of my time so that they can be more productive and more efficient. Me spending hours on ancient and dodgy computers just to keep them running for another couple of months is not cost-effective.

I'm assuming that the fact you're not capable of understanding this is why you think I don't have a "real job".

Except in this case, John, he's likely been servicing XP for over 10 years. At some point an upgrade is required if customers want to continue to evolve their operations. Contrary to your statement, it would often actually be less expensive for the customer to simply upgrade than be invoiced for the service of an older OS and all the work around and incompatibilities that they entail. So rather than GK getting a "real job" perhaps you could take the time to understand the job he has. It's hardly GK's fault that Adobe ceased support for XP some time ago.

Imaging if you bring your 2001 Toyota Corolla, that has been serviced (i.e., patched) regularly into a garage and the mechanic holds his head in his hands and tells you to upgrade to 2006 or later model. What would you do? I know what I'd do.

Cars and computers don't age the same. Now imagine bringing in your 1991 Toyota Corolla and telling the the mechanic that he has to keep it running. Yes, he can do it. No, it's not going to be cheap (try getting new parts for it out of Toyota) and there is a point in time where the costs of running your 1991 Corolla are far more than the benefits you get from it. XP is in the same boat.

Glad I have a Mac.

What has that got to do with this topic?

Apple release new iterations of OS X every year and drop support for the X-2th version. This is no different except that Microsoft have agreed to support XP for a lot longer than Apple supported their own software.

One doesn't need support when it works out of the box, never crashes, updates all by itself and works with anything.

Sorry, you are grumpy though. Life's too short. Best get a Mac.

Yeah, go tell that to the people still running Snow Leopard as Mountain Lion doesn't support their software. Tell it to the people who hate Mountain Lion as it tries to treat their laptops and workstations like an iPad.

Instal Linux Mint at no cost, lift performance, use Libre Office in place of MS Office, save a fortune. Don't need a new computer, just a new approach!

Install Linux plus LibreOffice. Spend weeks training staff how to do the same things as before differently. Listen to endless complaints about how Office isn't the same and doesn't work right. Listen to clients complain how the spreadsheet you've sent them doesn't open right. Realise there is a reason why Microsoft products dominate the business space.

Large enterprise will always hold on to an standard operating environment for as long as possible. It does cost to change, which is the simple reality of the matter. It is the same reason why businesses are reluctant to change to open source or Apple for the main business computers. It does happen, but it is a costly exercise. A large percentage of small/medium businesses in NZ will upgrade when they replace hardware, and as that hardware typically has a 3-6 year actual use life, it will take some time before Windows XP is actually replaced. Windows XP, albeit old in terms of look and feel, is still there because it is stable and well understood by an end user.

I use and will continue to use XP, as most people in the audio visual industry do. This is simply because the upgrades do not provide the same functionality for secondary screen in the way that XP does. When Microsoft went to Vista and Windows 7 they, in fact, downgraded the graphics capability and talked Nvidia into this as well. If they restore the previous functionality, I will change immediately.

Grumpykiwi - you decided to become an MS support person. The user probably had no choice in using XP. We're not all technophiles who vacuum the inside of our computers!

11 years old and there are still bugs to be found. That's an outstanding product, huh?

OK, so write me some integration tests that cover "the future".

Re OSX and iOS: Apple have consistently demonstrated quick uptake of new iOS and OSX, probably because it's painless and reasonably cheap to move to the next OS.

Re iOS - apple have domonstrated 50% uptake in the first week of new release.

Re OSX - I now tell family members to buy a Mac or look for someone else to do free support. It's that simple, really, and I work in IT.

XP won't suddenly have critical vulnerabilities when MS stops support.

XP users who are concerned should have already stopped using IE8, though, and changed to a modern browser such as Firefox or Chrome. And when Adobe stops releasing PDF Reader updates for XP, switch to Sumatra or Foxit PDF Reader.

Manufacturers also need to release Windows 8 drivers for their older printers.

Any version of Linux is better any version of Windows.

I have a desktop with XP and have recently purchased a laptop with Windows 8. Windows 8 is not user-friendly like XP. Windows 8 is great now that I am getting used to it and it has benefits over XP. However, it will never be as user-friendly, especially for people who use their computer rarely. Overall, a good move to Windows 8. You may not like it at first, but persevere.

The reason why so many users (me inc.) still use XP is because it's proved itself to remarkably stable and reliable. Vista put the scaredies on a lot of users, with all the glitches that came with it. Many of us became gun-shy after that and played safe by not changing. XP is still good, albeit without the bells and whistles of W7 and 8.

XP and I have been together for many years, and I would not change it for another OS. Having learned how to use it fully from desktop to registry, it offers me no problems, is fully reliable, and it's open to the kinds of manual solutions, fixes, enhancements and customisations that are impossible on other OS. It's the best OS for media work, and easy to install on new hardware. It is, in my opinion, the high point of the MS line. And I love the fact that I can have a dual or triple monitor setup with XP.

I'm a little confused by these comments of XP being the only one to support multiple monitors/resolutions. My machine at home is running two monitors of different and very high res. They are even quite different sizes (26" and 22") and it's perfectly fine in Windows 7. Same applies for laptops with an external monitor. If anything, it's easier to set the graphics properties of each monitor than it was in XP, even with bog-standard onboard graphics.

Macs, on the other hand, are a pain to use multiple monitors since they insist on having the task bar be the program menu bar at the same time, meaning you don't have menus within the app/plugin you are actually using.

I've not played with Windows 8 in a multiple-monitor setup yet, but can't imagine that it's much different from 7 as far as graphics are concerned.

What's the problem with dual screen on 7/8 that you've had? Not being snarky - genuine question here. :-)

This comment from Microsoft NZ deserves further examination: "XP is three generations behind Microsoft’s most modern operating system so continuing to use PCs with XP is similar to driving a car without a seat belt or a motorbike without a helmet." This comment is unnecessarily emotive and simply wrong on a number of levels.

Motor vehicles have had safety belts for a very long time. Motorcycle helmets have also been in use for a very long time. A lot longer than XP has been around and probably longer than the age of the MD of Microsoft NZ. Choosing not to use the safety features is the user's choice. But having to use the safety features should not mean an upgrade to the entire vehicle is required. Further, failing to take precautions/upgrades with a computer operating system is not life threatening. And, lastly, the use of a motor vehicle or motorcycle does not guarantee the user will have an accident that requries personal protection, as is inferred by the article.

In conclusion, the comparison by the MD of Microsoft NZ is absolute rubbish.

Can we say ... "planned obsolescence" here?

Yup, Totally. How many original iPhones, or even iPhone 3s, fill up landfills now because the latest version comes out every 14 months and users feel inferior keeping the last version. Or at the very least because someone has dropped their phone and shattered the glass (I've seen thousands of those get binned).

Just saying that in technology terms, XP has probably done more to keep machines out of landfills than many other bits of software or hardware. Users could, and do, keep machines for many years running the same install of XP.

That said, I've seen hundreds of machines that would have been scrapped because users will be users and mess up the software. That's fine, because at least it's easy enough to fix any hardware problems, give it a couple GB of ram, do a fresh install of XP and malwarebytes or something and find it a new owner. XP because it's not too resource intensive and users are familiar with it. Not to mention there's plenty of good cracked versions out there with all the updates that are stable. Some even have some superfluous cr*p stripped out to make it run a little leaner.

At "E-day" I once recovered about 20 modernish dual-core laptops in one hit that all were perfectly fine, just full of spyware and bloatware that made them unusable - stuff that users had to manually install. Rarely any viruses.