Windows XP and Windows 8: The worst possible combination for Microsoft

Windows XP and Windows 8: The worst possible combination for Microsoft

Summary: ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener: The death of XP and the birth of Windows 8 could create an unexpected opportunity for Android and Apple.


Timing is everything, and the conjunction of the death of Windows XP and the birth of Windows 8 has created an window of opportunity for Microsoft's rivals keen to nibble away at the company's desktop dominance.

Here's why. Windows XP, probably Microsoft's most popular operating system of all time, will soon be laid to rest. As of 8 April 2014 Microsoft will stop providing any patches or bug fixes for XP, which is now a dozen years old.

How tech's giants lost the tablet and smartphone war, even if they don't know it yet

How tech's giants lost the tablet and smartphone war, even if they don't know it yet

How tech's giants lost the tablet and smartphone war, even if they don't know it yet

Even today (despite much urging from Microsoft that customers should ditch XP in favour of newer versions of its operating system) XP still runs on between a quarter and a third of the world's desktops. Launched way back in October 2001, XP was the most popular desktop operating system in the world until July last year, at which point it was finally overtaken by Windows 7.

Nevertheless, XP has proved to be such a reliable and stable workhorse that many organisations are unwilling to part with it even now, and are unlikely to do so even after Microsoft ends support, even if this may be a risky proposition.

Part of the reason for this reluctance to move is the expense involved; moving to a new operating system can cost millions and take years for even medium-sized organisations. That's hard to justify especially if XP is working just fine, as it is for many organisations.

When the economy was doing better, regular upgrades were grudgingly accepted by firms as a regular cost of doing business: in addition, apart from Windows, there was no realistic alternative save for those few brave souls willing to go down the Linux route.

But the old certainties are being swept away. PCs are no longer the automatic choice for business, thanks to the rise of the tablet. Neither is Windows, with Android desktops and Chromebooks also on an upward trajectory. And, thanks to BYOD, most firms are already used to staff turning up with iPads and Kindle Fire tablets; Microsoft's desktop dominance is already fraying around the edges.  

But, perhaps bigger reason for companies' inertia is their concern about the kind of Windows these companies would be upgrading to. Windows 8, with its new tiled interface, may be making organisations more reluctant to upgrade, not less.

Windows 8 will be 18 months old when XP is laid to rest. It's mature enough (now it's onto its 8.1 iteration) that enterprises should be making their migration plans. And yet it's Windows 7, as the last old-style desktop version of Windows, which will undoubtedly be getting a boost from the XP refugees who move according to the tech chiefs I speak to.

The additional training, the cost of new hardware, and the sheer newness of the user interface in Windows 8 will all be offputting for traditionally cautious tech professionals. For some, the shock of the change from the old desktop view is so great that they might as well look at Android or Chromebooks or iPads when they are looking to upgrade. 

By updating the look and feel of Windows to cope with the threat from tablets, Microsoft may have opened the door to its rivals, not slammed it in their faces — hence the profusion of Android desktops generating excitement at CES this year, for example.

There are excellent reasons why Microsoft has redesigned Windows, and there was never going to be a good time to make such a big change to its UI, although many would argue it could have been handled better. The era of the automatic multimillion dollar upgrade are coming to a close.

For firms that see huge upheaval ahead in terms of user training, hardware and apps, taking the extra step and moving away from Windows — or at least supporting a much more deliberately mixed environment encompassing Windows, Android and iOS — is no longer as terrifying as it once might have been.

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.

Read more of ZDNet's Monday Morning Openers

Topics: Windows XP and the Future of the Desktop, Emerging Tech, Laptops, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, Windows

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  • Nonsense

    The article has laughable logic and is very unconvincing. It is really clear you have not been in the trenches recently, as the strawmen you set up do not even exist.
    • Yet Microsoft saw Chromebooks as enough of a threat

      That they spend ad dollars (Scroogle campaign) to try and sway con that sumers away from Chromebooks. Unfortunately for MS that Scroogle campaign seems to have backfired and Chromebooks sales have surged since.
      • Some strange code after clicking on submit

        It should read:

        Yet Microsoft saw Chromebooks as enough of a threat that they spend ad dollars (Scroogle campaign) to try and sway consumers away from Chromebooks. Unfortunately for MS that Scroogle campaign seems to have backfired and Chromebooks sales have surged since.
        • LOL

          Microsoft is doing Google's advertising for it! They don't seem to have considered that by running attack ads against the Chromebook, they're telling people about Chromebooks and suggesting to them that it's a credible competitor and they're concerned about people moving to Chromebooks from Windows.
          • Exactly

            A fundamental rule of adverdissuafe s that you go after the guy in front of you, and ignore (for the purposes of advertising) the guy behind you. So it's fine for Microsoft to compare Bing! to Google Search, Surface to iPad, Lumis vs Galaxy, those products are hopelessly behind the competition. Ads that do such comparisons help to equatr those two things in the consumrt mindset. Even X-Box vs PlayStation is close enough.

            But would be insane to launch a campaign pitting MS-Office vs Open Office, that would do nothing to dissuade Open Office users. But it would equate the two office suites... and that equation is even stronger when it's the dominant company making that equation. Same with Windows or PCs marketed directly against the Chromebook.
          • First they ignore you

            Then they laugh at you
            Then they fight you....
      • Errr

        No, they'll attack anything that Google does that they think they can get away with attacking.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • Chromebooks - really?

        Go to any BestBuy and ask them the most returned piece of equipment - it's the Chromebook. Sales may be soaring, but so are the returns. People realize that Chromebooks are nothing more than another iPad. Obviously the writer did not check his stats: "XP still runs on between a quarter and a third of the world's desktops" - false, XP is down to only 17%, Win8 7.5%, OSX 7%, Android a messily 2%, and other at 3% (which includes Win8.1). Even Vista has over 4% of the market. Android grew from almost 0% to 3% in the same time Win8 went from 0% to 7.5%, who is winning the market? Most Win8 haters just read silly articles like this and have no idea what they are talking about.
        • Speaking of checking stats...

          17% + 7.5% + 7% + 2% + 3% + 4% = 40.5%. What's the other 59.5%?
          • probably win7

            Reading is a skill too.
          • Why Windows 7 ... Of course!

            M Wagner
          • Let's think

            How can I put this in language you'll understand?

            Well, duh - Windows 7, obv.
        • Ipads are personal computers

          "People realize that Chromebooks are nothing more than another iPad"
          that is the most far removed from a factual statement ive ever read ipads a personal computers in a tablet form factor and all though the layman may see it as a toy many businessman have taken to using it for its productivity and portability, while the average person see the chrome ook for what it really is a web browser not held back by an os like windows
          Lorenzo Berkley
          • Well, yes and no!

            iPads and Android tablets are indeed self-contained. They can run any application or media downloaded to them without need for an Internet connection ... but they are NOT full-function preemptive multitasking operating systems.

            Still, compared to ChromeOS, they are powerful devices who can do many of the things the typical consumer USED-TO have to buy a PC to do.

            The bottom line is that, to use a ChromeBook to do ANYTHING, it must have a live WiFi connecton.

            That is a BIG downside.
            M Wagner
          • Absolute Rubbish - stop the FUD M Wagner

            Chromebooks have had offline Google applications for some time, so please keep up with the industry if you are going to make such sweeping statements. Did you even know it is Google Linux under the hood, which is a powerful multi-tasking OS, which run's 99% of the worlds supercomputers? I suspect not. Do you even own the device you are making comments about?


            Most people use what works, and for a large percentage of the population a Chromebook is just fine. Putting a truly powerful system in the hands of people who surf the web, send emails and watch YouTube - is a complete waste of time and resources. These machines are extremely inexpensive, which is why they are selling so well.

            Most households now have a mix of laptops, tablets and smartphones, and Microsoft is playing an increasingly small part in that mix for most. In my household , none at all. I have Apple IOS tablets, Android smartphones, ChromeOS chromebooks, and Linux laptops. It all works fine and gets the job done perfectly.

            Sitting around ignoring a complete shift in IT has happened is like watching an Ostrich with his head in the sand, it may frighten you but it is reality, get over it.
        • This is credible?

          "with Android desktops and Chromebooks also on an upward trajectory"

          Well, if you introduce a new product and it sells a few units, it's on an "upward trajectory".

          Trouble with the premise is that it's practically meaningless. Come back in two years, and show me 50 million units sold. Then I'll pay attention.
        • Chromebooks Really!

          The problem with most Best Buy chromebooks is they are underpowered -- get a Pixel or HP 14 with 4GB RAM, and you will have no problems -- our entire development company made the transition late last year. We are done with Microsoft!
          • Better experience, but not any better features and functionality.

            I suppose it depends on what you use, but while a nicely powered Chromebook is a nicer experience it still isn't a complete desktop replacement to many people. Better specs improve the experience, but a $1500 Chromebook can't really do much more than a $250 one. I'm saying this as a Pixel owner.
          • Three Cheers

            for you and your company! Congrats! Why people are so stuck on M$ is beyond me.
        • Even MS doesn't agree with 17%

          share for XP, so where do your "facts" come from.

          As for those not knowing about Windows 8.x being my experience, it is exactly the opposite, the ones most vocal about their dislike of it are those who've been hoodwinked into using it...usually with no disastrous results, but SO MUCH annoyance that they wish to rid themselves of it forever.

          Sure, you can get used to it...but why? Windows 7 is so much better in every way, UNLESS you're an idiot who needs to restore your hosed OS often, or needs the hypervisor support which is included. Otherwise, Windows 8.x is a giant bust.