Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

Summary: The other day my blogging buddy Zack Whittaker had the idea that Microsoft should invoke some sort of kill-switch to get XP users to get users moving from XP up to Windows 7. Bad idea, for a number of reasons. Realizing that this move was unworkable, he then proposes that operating systems should have a 'best before' expiry date. Now, technically, operating systems do have a 'best before' date, it's just that most people aren't aware of that fact.

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The other day my blogging buddy Zack Whittaker had the idea that Microsoft should invoke some sort of kill-switch to get XP users to get users moving from XP up to Windows 7. Bad idea, for a number of reasons. Realizing that this move was unworkable, he then proposes that operating systems should have a 'best before' expiry date. Now, technically, operating systems do have a 'best before' date, it's just that most people aren't aware of that fact.

The purpose of a 'best before' date on food is to make sure that we don't endanger ourselves by eating something that's bad for us. Antique beans, super-furry cheese or lumpy milk might be 'obviously' bad, but some foods might be bad despite looking and smelling edible.

Note: Some also claim that the food industry uses 'best before' dates to move more stock (ad therefore make more money) by artificially giving food a short shelf life ... I'm no expert here other than being a survivor of eating 'expired' food on numerous occasions. YMMV.

Operating systems can also spoil over time. The most obvious kind of spoilage is where the OS no longer supports new hardware or software, making it a tech cul-de-sac. This sort of obsolescence sucks, but it's hardly the end of the world. After all, if you stick with old software and hardware, you'll be OK, right?

Wrong.

Operating systems (along with most software) have an expiry date. That date may or may not be written down, but it still exists. It's the date when the manufacturer stops releasing updates for the software, specifically security updates. Using the software beyond this point puts your digital well-being at risk.

Microsoft has already decided what the 'best before' date for Windows XP is - it's April 8th, 2014. It wasn't printed on the box, but maybe it should have been.

On this date product support, including all updates and hotfixes, will end. From this point onwards, using XP is like eating food that's past its expiry date ... it might be OK, but it might not be. And just as with food, the longer it is since the OS has expired, the greater the risk.

Now, there are a lot of people using XP out there in Computerland. Usage share puts XP at around 60%, which considering that the OS is two generations old is in incredible. Even with a few years to go, it's hard to see these usage numbers dropping to single digits by the expiry date. This raises an interesting question - will Microsoft tell people that their OS is past its 'best before' date? given the popularity of the OS, Microsoft should perhaps be thinking about some form of informational campaign to get people at least thinking about the expiration date.

There's a lot of XP hate amongst tech pundits. I can understand that. Personally I don't want to be running XP on any of my systems. That said, I can understand why people are still using it. Businesses have the turning circle of an aircraft carrier and change takes time and costs money. Home users on the other hand usually wait until for a new PC before upgrading the OS. Tech pundits and early adopters seem to forget that Windows 7 has only been available for little more than a year, and that unless you're an early adopter, that's not a long time.

Note: I know, I know, I'm leaving out Vista here. Let's just say that a big reason for the continued popularity of XP was down to Vista and the poor reception it had on launch. Microsoft dropped the ball with Vista, and paid the price. Time to move on from that.

I think that we can safely stop it with the "ZOMG XP IS SO OLD AND NEEDS REPLACING NOW!!!!" hyperventilation until at least April 2013. Sure, business need to be thinking about migration, but there's certainly no need to get into a panic about it.

Oh, and remember that there are people still using Windows 98 and ME out there (0.11% and 0.03% respectively). Now these OSes are WELL past their expiration date!

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows

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52 comments
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  • Agree

    I will worry about it around April 7, 2014 and if I think it may be a problem, I will either buy new HW with a new OS, upgrade the OS, or switch to Ubuntu.<br><br>All in all I have 4 alternatives including the "do nothing" option. That makes me rather well prepared, me thinks. In the meantime, my money is safe in the bank.
    Economister
    • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

      @Economister XP is a piece of trash though. There is no reason to be running it unless your tied to crappy legacy software that your too lazy to run in a virtual environment.
      Jimster480
  • I have Windows 7 Pro

    but unfortunately some of the software that I have used for years will not run there. These are programs used for drawing, bitmap manipulation and video transcoding. They aren't extremely expensive but are extremely useful and I have yet to find any programs that are compatible with Win 7 that can replace them. Potential candidates for replacement not only are expensive but generally rely on a much more complicated UI and a significantly different work flow process. As long as I have no alternatives, I will be using XP Pro for a long time.

    You can rest assured that it is safely virtualized and sandboxed just like Win 7 is. No need for these malware magnets to see the internet and in the timeless realm of virtual machines, they never need have an expiry date.
    jacarter3
    • Wine?

      @jacarter3

      Have you tried running these apps on Wine in Linux? (Of course, you have to be running Linux first!)
      maclovin
      • Wine...

        @maclovin

        While I do have two ubuntu laptops, I use VMWare Workstation/Player and a Win2000 VM on those in order to run Windows apps. I have found that this approach is a bit more robust and provides for easy backups and transportation of the Windows apps and data independently of the Linux host.

        Both Windows XP Pro and Windows 7 Pro VMs are installed on my MacBook Pro which is significantly more powerful than the laptops running Linux. VMWare Fusion does not expose as much/many of the settings as VMWare Workstation (why? I don't know) but does provide 3D graphics capabilities and 64 bit CPU/memory to the guest. So far this has worked very well allowing me to switch between XP and Win 7 on the fly with ease.
        jacarter3
      • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

        @maclovin WINE is really not that great. You have a better chance of getting the apps to work properly in Windows 7 via compatibility modes and hacks then getting them to work 100% in WINE.
        Jimster480
    • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

      @jacarter3 In Windows 7, you should use XP Mode. Its FREE and is designed for your issues. I wish people would realize the Windos 7 is really 2 OS's in on .... It Include XP Mode. Just Buy the right version of Windows 7 x64.
      SneakerZ
  • Ubuntu, by then....

    By then...Ubuntu will be heads and shoulders above 7, 8, and whatever else comes out.
    maclovin
    • Let me know

      @maclovin

      ...when Ubuntu runs Serato, After Effects, and Mediashout. And no, xwax, Blender, and Opensong do *NOT* count...and if at ANY POINT WHATSOEVER the phrase "open a terminal and..." or "open [some file ending in .conf] in a text editor" are invoked, then Ubuntu is not a replacement for present iterations of Windows.

      Joey
      voyager529
      • Well then, how about

        @voyager529

        "run cmd.exe and type ipconfig /all"

        We''ll save you from that scary command shell yet!

        LOLOL :)
        jacarter3
      • nice try

        @jacarter3:

        -It's possible to see your IP address/subnet mask/default gateway/MAC address without even having a keyboard connected to a windows computer.

        -No software installer I've used in the past decade has required either running the setup from the command line or changing the options by editing ini files. By contrast, my last week-long foray into getting stuff working on a Linux box has required more .conf editing than I'd care to do on a normal day. Software installations are easy IF they're in a Synaptic/Yum repo. .rpm and .deb files never installed the way I wanted them to.

        -The amount of workaround tweaking I've seen required to get programs working in WINE has widely varied. If you look at the apps I listed, they're either stability centric (if Serato crashes during a party I'm DJing, I'm not getting paid), or require more than rote CPU (Render something in AE on WINE, then on Windows 7 when you have full hardware acceleration, and let me know the difference in render times).

        Try stepping out of the server room for a few minutes and see how OTHER people use their computers.

        Joey
        voyager529
      • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

        @voyager529

        check out distrowatch.com

        there is a whole world of Linux implementations

        Mainstream Software is still a bit of a problem but
        the caveats you mention for Ubuntu and other Linux distro
        are already pretty standard

        infact, in the Linux community, Linux Distro's have become so "Windows-like" in look and feel, that it is turning off many die-hard shell scripting Linux people.
        daniel.pereznet
      • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

        @voyager529

        www.apple.com

        OSX versions of Serato, After Effects, and Mediashout.

        And, yes you can DJ and do your church stuff on a $999 Macbook.
        itguy08
      • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

        @voyager529 Blender!!

        But sir it Dose run Blender!!
        mintalaska
      • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

        @voyager529 : have you ever seen anybody open a terminal on Android... yep... not all Linuxes are complex and mind boggling... I remember when you had to boot on DOS and type "win" to invoke Windows 3.11. Mac people laughed at it and at the clumsy interface that appeared. Now things got reversed, but that doesn't mean it's forever.
        cosuna
    • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

      @maclovin I seriously doubt it. I'm dual booting ubuntu on this laptop (and am infact booted into it as I write this) but it is NOT a replacement for windows. There is no commercial software support, and small open source projects don't make the cut as replacements. Just because the functionality is similar doesn't mean its the same.
      Jimster480
  • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

    Did Windows ME ever have a "Good" date?
    grant@...
    • LOL! <nt>

      @grant@...
      safesax2002
    • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

      @grant@...

      Sure did. The day Windows 2000 came out. :)
      clfitz
      • RE: Operating Systems DO have a 'best before' expiry date, and XP isn't past it ... yet!

        @clfitz Its funny that Windows 2000 came out before ME. Meaning it was terrible the day it came out.
        Jimster480