Windows XP: One year to go but is it already too late to move?

Windows XP: One year to go but is it already too late to move?

Summary: With Microsoft’s cut-off date for support for Windows XP exactly 12 months away, the options are narrowing for the many organisations that have yet to carry out an OS upgrade.


Windows XP support ends one year today, but time may have already run out for some companies still hoping to carry out a conventional migration.

Studies suggest XP still accounts for about 40 percent of installed desktops in the UK, even though Microsoft has designated 8 April 2014 as the day support ends for the venerable operating system, first released to manufacturers in August 2001.

That one-year window before Windows XP's end of life is not enough time for organisations planning to make the move using traditional methods, according to Ovum principal analyst Roy Illsley.

"If they were doing the traditional migration — which people have done to get to XP from Windows 95, for example — then on our analysis if there have anything more than a couple of hundred PCs, they really haven't got time to do that. Not unless they throw an absolute mammoth amount of manpower at it," Illsley said.

"Generally, for an upgrade you're looking at — depending on size — anything from two to three years from start to finish to do it properly. But that's doing it the traditional way."

In 2010 budget airline easyJet started planning the migration of 9,000 staff using 2,500 desktops and laptops from XP to Windows 7 and had completed the task by late 2012.

Illsley thought many of those organisations that have still to make the move from XP would look to desktop virtualisation for a solution.

"If they do a desktop virtualisation-type approach, whether they go fully desktop-virtualised or whatever, they can still get some useful tools to help get over 80 to 90 percent of the problem and they've still got time to do that," he said.

Unsupported XP applications

Research from Accenture-and-Microsoft-owned software consultancy Avanade suggested that 52 per cent of UK IT departments have yet to put in place a strategy for dealing with applications that currently run under XP, which continues to account for 43 percent of enterprise desktop infrastructures.

"The issue is really those 10 percent of applications that won't or can't migrate and those are the ones where now people have got to start really thinking, 'What's my contingency for that'," Illsley said.

 "Because if there is an app that they can't do without, they are going to have to run that machine running the app in XP or try and find some way of running that in compatibility mode — if it will work until they can get off it," he said.

"That's the real cruncher. If they bite the bullet and say, 'Right, that app — we're just going to wind it down and replace with it with this one', then they'll be OK.

"It is pretty much the crossroads. Now is the time that if they haven't started thinking about doing it, then they have really have to — and not in the traditional way but in a radically different way," he told ZDNet.

New figures from software consultancy Camwood suggest one in five companies still using XP plan to continue using it after Microsoft support ends.

Illsley said pursuing that approach would render an organisation vulnerable to security breaches.

"When no more updates are coming through for XP, it's a security risk. If somebody finds a weakness with it, Microsoft aren't going to be releasing patch updates to fix problems," Illsley said.

"If your business hasn't got anything sensitive on there and it's just a standalone PC, you could argue that the effect is actually minimal. But if it's a PC accessing a corporate network doing important stuff, they've got to upgrade because they would be at severe risk," he said.

Illsley added that he expects most organisations to move to Windows 7 rather than Windows 8 and probably swap existing apps for SaaS alternatives. He also thinks some companies may go for open-source desktops.

"Over the past couple of years I've noticed a definite change in perception about open source. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that a number of people will go for Linux on the desktop."

He added that some smaller organisations in certain specialised sectors might use a combination of Apple Macs and virtualisation technologies.

"But that will be quite a small number. We are expecting the majority of that 40-odd percent to move off XP and onto Windows 7," he said.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Windows, Project Management

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • There will big a big jump

    in both win7/8 and XP will slowly die away.
    Simon Tupper
  • Of course some companies will have a hard time to

    follow the deadline but give it 3 years or maybe 4 and most of them will leave XP behind for good.
    Simon Tupper
  • Good luck.

    I sincerely wish these companies the best of luck in their migrations. I also hope that a few will consider open alternatives.
  • Windows XP: One year to go but is it already too late to move?

    No its not too late to move and it never will be. Microsoft Windows XP will still continue working just like it should on April 8th, 2014. All they need is a good migration plan and that is easy enough to do. As long as they aren't sitting around twiddling their thumbs there would be no problems in doing an upgrade from Microsoft Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8. The app compatibly is there so that's not a problem.
    • Yeah it maybe there...

      but if the manufactures don't apply said compatibility to old programs you run a greater risk of being forced to upgrade program versions, spend more money on licenses for said upgrade and then even hardware upgrade due to the fact the hardware using that works excellent isn't compatible with new updated version of the program.

      One good example I ran across: A camera system. Was designed for XP and the company updated it to support Vista. Win7 rolled out and the program that drives the cameras has minor issues and what not. Company wont update program to support win7 or 8 fully. Instead customer had to buy newer version and license at the recommendation of the companies not mine. I advised not to and look elsewhere. Now they had to buy new camera hardware to work with new version of program.
      Free Webapps
      • That's the point ... isn't it?

        The unanticipated problems. These folks have had six years to address these issues. If they still haven't started, they won't be ready by next April. And the transition will cost them thousands of dollars more than it would have.
        M Wagner
    • They have already hard six years ...

      ... to put together a "good migration plan" so, if it hasn't happened yet, what would make you think it will over the next year.
      M Wagner
  • I think this article is really saying the sky is falling

    the end of the support cycle ends next year. so what? XP will still work. only MS support ends, but by now they've fixed basically everything that needs support anyway. if a company is still in transition in 2015 it's not going to cause any problems.
    • If the PC has company data, or you connect it to the network

      Then that is a huge risk. Microsoft will no longer be providing security patches for XP. If some horrible wormable piece of malware bubbles up, and XP is vulnerable, your network could get infected, someone may root the XP box and then use it to figure out passwords on your network. The possibilities are limitless.

      I'm really hoping that none of the folks with whom I do business are thinking "oh, XP will just work after patch Tuesday next April".
      • Windows is only secure

        if you disconnect the computer from the network, or best yet, just switch it off.

        Those people who still use Windows XP, either don't care of what Microsoft are telling them, cannot move off Windows XP, because Microsoft has broken compatibility with their existing applications, or just know what they are doing.

        If security becomes such a big concern, they can just run some Open Source UNIX OS on their desktop and have the Windows XP license virtualised in VirtualBox or similar, so that the software for which they run Windows XP on the first place, continues to run.
        • Agreed

          I know of a few places running XP and I've been giving them worst case scenarios as to why they should think about migrating now. They feel confident if their tech guys skills. Here's what one of the tech guys told me.

          They have several clean boxes/vm's with XP only on it and arent used by anyone, they are just up and running to get updates. They get every update installed that applies to their installed features so should worst cast happen and one system goes down or infected. They have a clean updated XP image they can install and go from their.

          Sounds good and all and it may work for them. I just shook my head and said. If that works for you, great but I would always count on that method. Now I think these guys just don't like win7 & 8. I will give them kudos for just upgrading to server 2008 though.
          Free Webapps
  • No schedule

    On the schedule of upgrades, our system time frame is still TBD.
  • B L A S P H E M O U S ! ! ! ! !

    LOL, not I got your attention.
    There's WAY WAY WAY to many PC's out there that simply CANNOT load Windows 7, let alone Win-8.
    The way Win-8 requires a SPECIAL CPU be installed, MS is absolutely PHQ'ING NUTS!!!
    People will not buy a new PC JUST CAUSE MS tells us to for there OS to work.
    That's just plain stupid business tactics. One that might make a business GO OUT OF BUSINESS.
    OH-WAIT . . . wasn't that a ZDNET prediction? Which will go out of business in 2017, Apple-Google_MS.
    There is ABSOLUTELY no reason why XP can not continue for many more years. As long as PC's continue to work, why buy a new one?
    "If it ain't broke, why fix it?"
    IF one auto manufacture has several models of the same car, so can an Operating System.
    • XP won't die.

      This is no longer the times where it was completely necessary to upgrade. Win 98 was bad in comparison to XP. I found XP to be superior in almost every way. If an OS does what you want it to do then that's good enough. If there isn't anything new to offer with the newer OS then your going to stick with what works.

      Security problems with XP after MS stops updating won't go away but it doesn't mean your system won't be protected. There's plenty of programmers out there now that could do the same job MS have been doing for 12 years with XP. Some people don't want to buy a new PC just because the current software won't work with a prehistoric machine. I do recommend companies having at least a few Win 7 machines because they need to get familiar with the hardware/software. This article seems to scare people into thinking that it'll be twice as hard to get off of XP when the support ends.

      But hey, there's plenty of people who still use Win 95, Win 98 and other obsolete OS's. If MS wants to stay in business they will have to make their OS's compatible and quit with the ugly UI's after having great ones. I may not leave Win 7, i'll always have a running Win 7 machine but if MS continues releasing junk UI's like Win 8 then i'll be using Linux and Apple. In fact i think some companies are catching onto Linux. MS could have been focusing on proper software compatibility but instead they screw around with the UI making the newest OS, Win 8 the worst OS in history.
      • XP really won't die

        I am convinced that over the next year we will see support from unexpected places for Windows XP...and then beyond also. It won't be free per se, but it won't be expensive. Windows XP is such a known commodity but at the same time, the way I see things, programmers are just over the span of the last 2 years learning to write for it. The trend will continue, because there will be money in the mix...
      • There's plenty of programmers out there...?

        But will they be able to do "the same job MS was doing" unless MS releases the source code for their "obsolete" OS? I doubt it, unless they are expert reverse-assemblers. And what incentive is there for MS to release the source? They do not want to ENABLE customers to get along without the new OS! And besides, there may be some key trade secrets in some of those modules that they have migrated into modules of Windows 7 and 8. Basically, to use a hardware analogy, it's like maintaining an old 1960's mainframe computer without wiring diagrams.
        • ...some key trade secrets...

          You mean, like, it's still based on DOS?!
    • Errrr.....

      No one is stopping you from using Windows XP.
      But good luck in getting anything to work with Win XP in the next year or so. Buy a new printer? No Win XP software at one point. Change a video card, no software at one point.
      Most companies will stop developing software for Win XP. Some will actually encode it in the software installer not to install on a Win XP system.
      Already Adobe & Avid [among others] have stopped supporting Win XP for some software.
      • Re: new printer, no software for XP

        Then, by all means buy a printer that is designed properly! Many printers sold today have perfect support for DOS, as well. It's only junk printers, that require special "windows drivers".

        It is already hard to buy a printer without network support. Having that, you hardly need any special "drivers".

        The software companies will write software what their paying customers want, not what pathetic Microsoft tells them is the "next big thing".
        • Printers?

          Don't even get me started on printers...