The day is finally within sight when Windows XP and the dreaded Internet Explorer 6 will finally be out of support. This means that there will be no further patches or updates for the operating system at all past April 8th 2014. On their website Microsoft are keen to point out that "Without Microsoft support, you will no longer receive security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software that can steal your personal information."
This is good news for security experts worldwide, good news for end users (at least when it comes to security) and good news for Microsoft's bottom line as many people will be forced to upgrade to Windows 7 (it should be noted that while support may end the products will still work after this date). It's very bad news though for malware writers and criminals, and bad news for businesses who have been delaying recoding older programs and web portals to work with newer operating systems and browsers.
It raises some important questions for Windows 7 users though that, at least so far, Microsoft aren't answering. This is what will happen with support for XP Mode within Windows 7 itself?
The copy of Windows XP Professional contained within this Windows 7 add-on is unlikely to be maintained beyond this date, though Microsoft have said nothing to calm the nerves of individuals and businesses who may be concerned that they'll end up with a horribly insecure component sitting at the heart of their otherwise very secure new Windows installation.
The company could use this as leverage to get businesses and individuals to move to Windows 8 by the time its first service pack comes out, which would probably be at the end of 2013, only a few months before XP support officially ends. It's not good news for Windows 7 users though and, more concernedly, while there's been talk of a Windows 7 mode in Windows 8, there's no information yet on what might happen to XP Mode itself and if there will be any native XP app support in the company's next generation desktop OS.
All we know is that the clock is ticking and 40% of all PCs worldwide are still running Windows XP. This of course means that Microsoft will need to spend a considerable amount of money and effort in the next year informing people who may be completely oblivious to the impending date, of the end of XP support. Many of these people will live in the developing world and will not have the money to upgrade to a newer version of Windows, even if they're ageing computers will run it.
Microsoft will need to offer cash incentives to all XP users if they are to wean people away in the form of discounts on Windows 7. This could prove counter-productive however if it means so many people move to Windows 7 that sales of Windows 8 will be sluggish. Will the company then delay any marketing until Windows 8 is out or approaching release, or will they simply not alert people at all?
Whichever way this goes it's not good news for Microsoft. They've supported XP long beyond its intended shelf-life, it will be thirteen years when support finally ends compared to Apple who only support operating systems for five years, and this extended period of support could come back to bite the company in a big way.
If you are currently still using Windows XP there are some cheap ways to get Windows 7. The Family pack (where available) offers excellent value and students with a .ac email address can get significant discounts too. Some subscription models like TechNet and the Microsoft Action Pack offer excellent value for small businesses. If you can afford it though, by far the cheapest way to obtain a copy of Windows 7 is with a new PC.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.