The countdown clock has been ticking on Windows XP for a couple of years now, but the end is coming into view. There are only 500 days to go before Microsoft ends its extended support, and that means no more patches and no more security fixes. Given that XP is not exactly famous for its security, this represents a significant risk.
However, a security breach might not be the worst of it. Journalists will be only too keen to write up the first few stories about companies whose defences are penetrated because they are still using an obsolete operating system, so the damage to their brand and reputation could be unusually large. And rather than the polite sadness that sometimes colours such stories (unlucky; could happen to anyone), victims can expect a well-deserved splattering of glee (told you so!).
Some companies could end up being sued. I would expect lawyers (I'm not one) who work in the technology scene to see the potential to profit from companies that have done the security equivalent of "driving without due care and attention" when looking after their data.
In the UK, it is a mandatory requirement to secure data under the seventh principle of the Data Protection Act, and this necessitates some kind of risk assessment. Good luck telling a judge that your security was based on using an insecure and unsupported operating system.
Still, there is no pain without gain. As well as profits for law firms, the end of XP could mean big bonuses for suppliers of cyber-liability insurance. With security breaches typically costing companies thousands of dollars/pounds a time, hefty insurance premiums would increase the already-high cost of sticking with Windows XP.
The end of XP should also mean extra profits for all the software companies that offer migration software and services. And as the deadline approaches, these firms should be able to increase their prices along with increases in demand. The longer companies leave the transition to Windows 7, the costlier it is likely to get.
One UK-based supplier says:
With 500 days to go to this point, Camwood, the application rationalisation and migration specialists, now starts its official ‘Countdown to the End of XP’ campaign: Camwood intends to mark-off significant milestones over the next year-and-a-bit, issuing information to help businesses through the final days of XP.
If you're not sure how long you have left, Camwood has provided a Countdown Clock for XP. I hope you don't need it.
However, Netmarketshare's browser-based statistics (below) suggest only 50.5 percent of PC users are on Windows 7 or Vista, while 40.7 percent are still on XP. That's around 500 million users, so to make the deadline, we'll need to upgrade a million users a day, including weekends.
This could be the biggest IT bonanza since the Year 2000 "millennium bug" campaign. Struggling American PC suppliers such as HP and Dell could certainly do with the boost.