XP: The Final Countdown

People have been saying that “this is the year of VDI” for a number of years now. Could it be true this year? Windows XP will be 13 years old when Microsoft finally pull the plug on its support in 2014. That's a decent innings for domestic pet dog let alone an operating system. Why has it lasted this long and will anybody miss it?

For me, the answer to that last question is “no”, but without a doubt there are users out there for whom it won't be the case. Some of them will be home users, holding on to that creaking PC or laptop that they've had for years and that has always worked (except for BSODs, viruses, lost files and the lack of telepathic functionality that some of the less technically savvy wish was available). Others still may work in small businesses or enterprises that don't have a very heavy reliance on IT. The remainder will be some of the bigger corporates, still using XP maybe because it's too difficult to upgrade, too expensive or because XP just works. Or, perhaps more worryingly, there has been a woeful lack of strategic planning somewhere.

Unlike its successor, the much lamented Windows Vista, XP is fairly stable and was fairly easy to pick up and use. In an enterprise environment it could be configured and maintained fairly easily. I can understand why companies wouldn't want to upset the apple cart by upgrading. Even after Windows 7 had been out for some time, I still received brand new corporate laptops with XP builds on them. And, the brief trend in netbooks in 2009 – 2011 kept sales of XP going strong too.

So, is the world going to end when support officially ends in April 2014? Not really. Having worked with and for software and hardware vendors for many years, their stock response when you buy, upgrade or raise a support ticket for their products is to recommend that you use the latest versions of everything. This will already have been going on for some time now. Some vendors have dropped support for XP already and any that still do will be killing it off over the next year. Companies that use XP won't grind to a halt come next April.

That said though, despite its familiarity, using XP now represents an increasing risk. When the updates have stopped and the support is cut off, who are you going to turn to when things go wrong? When the office laser printers have run off their final pages and have to be replaced, where will the drivers come from to support XP with your new model? If you're using XP, the time to think about migrating is now (actually, a couple of years ago might have been better).

The cost of migrating will start to take a back seat to the increased risk of inaction as this year passes. The problem that some may face though is what to do about their legacy applications. Cost, complexity and stability may not be keeping some on XP; it may be their applications that do not work on newer operating systems. What then? Some enterprises face very tough choices this year.

Virtual desktop infrastructure may very well be a sensible solution in many cases if enterprises are willing to invest in it. Careful planning is required but, if it's done well, there are significant benefits that can be realised. So yes, it may well be the year of VDI after all.

Of course, there's much more to End User Computing (EUC) than just virtual desktops. So much is going on in this space that I could rattle on for hours and it'd be out of date by the time I'm done. Rather than lament the inevitable end of the countdown, I look forward to the changes that its driving.

If you want to read around what's going on in the EUC space, two of my favourite sites to follow are:

The clock is ticking on XP (and Office 2003)…

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