The end of Windows XP is also the end of everything we thought we knew about computing

The end of Windows XP is also the end of everything we thought we knew about computing

Summary: When we bury XP we also need to bid farewell to the old certainties about technology too.


More than a dozen years after it first went on sale, the reign of Windows XP is finally coming to an end.

XP was Microsoft's most popular operating system ever — it was only recently overtaken by Windows 7 as the most used OS in the world – and it's still running on somewhere around a quarter of all desktops.

As of next week however, XP is no longer supported by Microsoft: no more software updates or security patches will be forthcoming from the company.

XP's dozen-year lifespan is the equivalent of millennia in tech years, and so XP is a digital dinosaur still roaming the earth. Many will be mourning its passing, others will be grumbling as they scramble to update to a new operating system, and some will be cursing because they have to pay out for additional support after having left their migration too late.

But the death of XP is more than just a headache (and the cause of some heartache) for IT: it also part of some profound changes in the tech landscape.

As we lay XP is to rest, we're also saying goodbye to some of technology's old certainties: that the PC is the default hardware for the average user, that Windows is the standard operating system it will run. Both of those assumptions held true throughout the life of XP — but no longer.

The decline of the PC continues: it's already been overtaken by tablets and smartphones among consumers, and increasing in business. As well as the rise of new hardware form factors, new operating systems are grabbing market share too: in the case of tablets and smartphones, it's still pretty much a two horse race between Android cornering the mass market and iOS at the premium end.

Windows is still around of course, and still a strong presence (especially in business), but its dominance is being questioned: the upgrade from XP to Windows 8 is such a big leap that some may consider switching to an alternative platform altogether, such as iPads or Chromebooks.

All of this means we're entering a new era of fragmented computing, a jumble of devices, operating systems and competing ecosystems.

Neither Android nor iOS are monoliths: there are many versions of Android in use (less than 10 percent of devices are running KitKat, the latest iteration of the operating system), and the older versions of Apple's iPhone and iPad (only a few years old) cannot run the latest versions of iOS. Build it once, run anywhere is just as much of a dream as it ever was.

Competing ecosystems have lead to a profusion of app stores and operating systems flavours (just compare Amazon's Fire OS to Android) which can create strife for developers and users. Stifling walled gardens of content and apps are everywhere as tech companies seek to enforce the loyalty of their customers.

Windows, of course, was just another walled garden (ask the Linux enthusiasts or the Mac fans) but for most it was such a big enclosure that most couldn't see the walls.

None of this is bad, just different. It's unlikely that we'll see a platform as dominant as Windows again; Android is making a strong play but will probably never be the operating system of everything.

The downside of all of this is uncertainty and fragmentation, at least for now. But it's also a bigger, more complicated and more exciting world with better devices, wider options and more opportunity.

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. As a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.



Topics: Windows, Emerging Tech, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Operating Systems

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  • good riddance

    ... to hideous rubbish!
    • RE:

      I agree: Windows is and always has been rubbish. The discombobulated registry becoming its own filesystem with cryptic unreadable keys scattered all over the place, the terrible filesystem known as NTFS (EXT4 is technically superior), ReFS code is based on NTFS code and stripped prior features away, the feudalistic app store is a total failure and devs see MS wants to be god, the ongoing malware and security issues, the backdoor in the app store of Windows 8, and the list goes on.

      I recommend people start switching over to Linux. Mac is okay, but their codebase is very insecure and not designed for the enterprise environment. Good riddance to Windows. People, please start waking up out of your trance and don't buy into the fake shills pushing a product.
      • Different strokes

        I couldn't disagree with you more. The bottom line is that Windows 8.1 is clean, runs fast, is stable, and gets my stuff done. I don't know the details of NTFS, but I haven't lost a file in years, and for me that is what counts. I use basic virus control and for me virus problems and malware is a problem of the distant past. I travel the world with my laptop, currently, I'm in China and in one windows 8.1 laptop, I have enormous power, flexibility, control, and ease of use. Before you accuse me of being a paid shill - no I'm not. I'm just a guy who really likes what windows has become.
        • Clean?

          Windows 8 clean?

          Look at the junk pile in the windows store. Do a search for Scooby-Doo. There are a bunch of apps in there supposedly a game where all you do is tap on the character ... low ball quality that you can't filter, you can't set an ignore on a particular app creator, its absolutely ridiculous!

          And don't get me wrong, windows 8 is fine on tablets, and touch driven devices, but for desktop users, Microsoft completely missed what they should have been doing .. first thing *choice*, second thing *guidance*, third should have been their store. Instead microsoft dictated, mandated, and ignored.

          Here we are now at 8.1 / 8.11 and Microsoft is just starting to come around to realize how badly they've misjudged where their focus should have been. And now, their focus should be on conversion from XP to 8. 8 doesn't have the resource needs as 7 or Vista, can run on 2 and 4 gigs of ram, so why isn't Microsoft trying to woo the XP persons by making their installer help upgrade from XP to 8?

          The installer could see they are on XP, default to Desktop, include something like Start8 or any of the myriad of alternative start menu replacements, and setup sandboxed / virutalized XP mode for running apps that aren't ready for 8.

          But again, microsoft with its infinite wisdom isn't going to, they instead want people to upgrade/upgrade/upgrade. (os/apps/hardware)
          • upgrade/upgrade/upgrade is neccessary

            Most people AND businesses still running XP have machines that were built before Vista's release in '07. These pre-07 machines are not powerhouse PCs, they're economical PCs; core duo's and 1-2GB of RAM, tops. Most are still Pentium 4's with 1GB of ram, 400mzh front side bus... Full of dust, failing fans and power supplies... I see it all the time. I'm an IT Field Technician both for my profession and on the side.

            You want Microsoft to develop an 'in-place' upgrade to 8? That'd be a nightmare. Upgrading the hardware is key. The PC as a whole needs to be recycled approximately every other OS upgrade. A machine built for XP might handle 7, though why bother buying the software at cost when you can get it for the subsidized cost when you buy it with a new PC?

            I don't think MS should be held in low regard because they didn't help make a migration tool to 8 from XP... My qualms are with ending support for it before consumers are given confidence that 8 is stable and provides the best experience.
            John Giallanza
          • Pentium 4 considered harmful..

            I would just add that anybody with a Pentium 4 REALLY needs to get rid of that rubbish, the netburst architecture (which Intel abandoned when it realized it was a dead end) is slow, an insane power hog, and generates crazy amounts of heat.

            For those without much money that would like to get rid of that power hogging Pentium 4 here is how, go to amazon or newegg and look up "AMD E350 motherboard" this will give you a 1.6Ghz dual core AND an AMD Radeon graphics chip AND the motherboard for around $70. These boards are simple enough (since you don't have to install a CPU or graphics) than any teen could install it. A stick of RAM for it will run about $20 for a 2Gb stick and an IDE to PCI card will run you $10 (this is so you don't have to replace your hard drive or DVD) and that's it! For just $100 you have turned that power hogging Pentium 4 into a nice dual core unit that uses less than 20w under full load, on average a 5 fold decrease in power usage!

            And for those saying "just use Linux"? there is a REASON why Linux has been given away for 20+ years and has less than 1% of the market, its because as long as Linus Torvalds is running the show the drivers will be a mess, the entire ecosystem will always be in flux, and stability will be but a pipedream. And please don't cal Android Linux, it has as much to do with Linux as a TiVo, Google took the kernel for their own Java based OS, that's it. Its no more "Linux" than your router is, its an embedded OS run by Google inc.
            PC builder
          • get you facts strait the AMD is a power pig

            my 4770k uses 68.25W which is 13.68 pt/W vs AMD FX 9590 178.75W 4.24 pt/W
            and even the I3 13.81W vs your 30.2W and you get 4.24 pt/W compared to 13 3 2365M get 14.54 pt/Wi 3 2365M so while AMD chip are cheaper to buy and can high higher clock speed you have look at the power consummation with has to be taken out which requires more fans which add a hidden cost of the box as well as more ac another hidden cost
            Magnus Thunderson
          • Ps the 1.4 i3 is 30 faster the 1.6 350

            forgot to put that in
            Magnus Thunderson
          • Nobody uses the 9590

            So who cares. Comparing two parts that neither company has EVER tried comparing, so you could match the lowest powered to the highest? Obvious fanboy is obvious.
            PC builder
        • Know some who made the "upgrade" 2 Win 8

          It's the same all over as the Achilles heal of Windows from 95 and further,,
          Up is hardly the appropriate expression.

          The Windows registry, that if it's deployed with program's build to use that nuisance creating facility
          e.g. in most cases MSVC built appa/programs . . .

          Autocorrupts itself, making the machines 2 crawl on their knees,as it's still the case with Win8

          Must be an expert to uninstall a program completely, where one need to apply
          very time consuming manual patchings, the worst are Type Adobe MS office, AV and the worst
          experience I had, SolidWorks.

          Windows "shines as a sun" if one deploy posix docked, non registry utilizing local builds.

          But from Win Vista and further the OS contains to much RT parasiting processes.

          So Hasta LA Vista and the post ones .
          • looks like you never tried to uninstall Oracle

            any MS application looks like an angel next to that.
        • but anti-virus is a MUST HAVE for Windows

          Hi :)
          New Windows is always 'quite fast'. Probably not quite as fast as other systems but it would be difficult for you to judge since you clearly have not used anything else.

          The problem is that Windows slows down so much and so soon.
          Regards from
          Tom :)
      • Yet

        who wants to work for a pay off that isn't so great.

        You complain about such trivialities as the NTFS file system, but really out of the millions of users who but .000001% actually (a) care and (b) would notice any real difference even if they cared.

        As for software, I keep trying Linux but every time I run into the same problem of the shoddy software experience. I simply don't see the need learn a new way to get, at the very best, the same results.

        Linux reminds me of people that used to say they like to write html in notepad rather than Dreamweaver etc., and then couldn't understand why their clunker wasn't appreciated.

        Computing like all technology should make life easier. Linux has never really understood this because in the main the majority of people working on Linux don't fully appreciate that the majority of the worlds population aren't on the aspergers spectrum.
        • RE:

          Riiight...the "aspergers spectrum" really gives your comment credibility. Times are a changin'; I wouldn't count on Windows being your "go to" operating system for the long future ahead. Linux has some rough edges, but as a platform, it's getting better and better on the desktop and there are plenty of distros that are easy to use. If you want to be hooked up, ball and chain to the crap that MS puts out and be a slave to their propriety model (which seems to be dying), then the only enemy you really have is yourself.
          • Linux?

            This is the same argument I have heard for the last 10 years. Linux is a better system technically, but it has some bugs. Just trust us and it will get better. Used to be the old DOS versus Windows argument.
          • "linux as a replacement"

            I love the comments suggesting Linux because it is getting better. Those comments could be cut and paste from similar posts made last century!
          • Linux

            I bought a Thinkpad for my 21y/o environmental-science-student daughter, and promptly installed Mint-Cinamon. She hasn't once asked my how to change settings, or install software, having found out herself. It took all of 3 days before saying that she loved it. That was 4 months ago
          • It's a little alarming

            ..that there are evidently crazed fanboys out there clicking "flag" on your post.
            Flawless Cowboy
          • RE:

            Don, Linux has some rough edges but there are multiple distros available which are simple to use, and there is a more concerted effort on unification of system components. What that means, is more development focus is going into particular projects rather than a hodge-podge of fragmentation, where efforts could be better spent.

            Google employees all run Linux desktops. IBM recently invested 1 billion dollars into Linux, and that isn't the first time they did this. Open Source software makes money, so any theory that because it's open source means there can't be money made is false. It's ironic that Linux Torvalds designed the Linux kernel for the desktop, yet it has taken every other form of computing by storm: supercomputers, mobile, tablets, and TV set top boxes. However, the landscape of the Linux desktop is dramatically changing, and it's changing rapidly. The Linux kernel has so many developers and changes so rapidly, that it's the largest software project ever; something that MS's development model could ever achieve.

            Is the Linux desktop perfect? No, it isn't. Is it getting better? Yes.
          • Linux vendors don't care enough about the consumer market to take on ...

            ... Windows. There is much more money to be made by Linux vendors in the research machine room, and on very large-scale servers than there is in the commodity consumer space. Until you can buy Linux from a brand-name vendor from a "big-box" store, and run your favorite apps on it, Linux sill never gain significant market-share on the desktop.
            M Wagner