While Microsoft has pulled the plug on Windows XP support, it continues to provide Windows XP security patches to large enterprise users who are willing to pay handsomely for that service. We've known that for a while.
Here's what we didn't know, however. In the past month, Microsoft has chopped those prices substantially, according to Gartner researchers and others contacted by Computerworld. I am hearing the same from some of my sources.
When I asked today, Microsoft officials conceded that they've cut the prices of custom XP patches, but aren't providing guidelines as to how much. A spokesperson sent me the following statement:
"We’ve been working with customers and partners on the migration from Windows XP since we announced in September 2007 that support for Windows XP would end on April 8. 2014. As part of this effort, we’ve made custom support more affordable so large enterprise organizations could have temporary support in place while they migrate to a more modern and secure operating system."
Gartner issued a research note on April 8 (available to its subscribers only) -- the day that Microsoft support ended for Windows XP -- which said that some of its clients were reporting that Microsoft was lowering the maximum price for customer support. Gartner advised its clients still needing XP patches "to revisit your Custom Support Agreement plans for potential cost and risk reduction."
Gartner estimates that 20 percent to 25 percent of enterprise systems are still running Windows XP, and that one-third of enterprises have more than ten percent of their systems still on XP. Often times, enterprise customers are still running XP because they have custom applications and/or peripherals that make migrating complicated and difficult.
In 2012, Gartner says some customers were claiming Microsoft was charging as much as $5 million for extended support coverage for Windows XP. But by 2013, according to Gartner, that cost was closer to a maximum of $2 million.
One of my sources, who requested anonymity, said he had heard that one customer had Microsoft reduce a quote of $85 million for a CSA agreement, to $3 million to cover all of the devices in his organization still running Windows XP.
Computerworld, citing its own sources, claims the new ceiling for CSA coverage is $250,000, with a $250 per device charge.
Microsoft is walking a tightrope in regard to Windows XP. Officials don't want to look like they are extending yet again the support deadline for the 13-year-old operating system. But there are still a number of very big and high-profile shops that still are running Windows XP. If those customers are hit by security issues which could have been resolved by Microsoft patches, Microsoft looks like the bad guy.
Even with the price cut, Custom Support Agreements are still meant primarily for large enterprise users. They aren't intended for smaller businesses or individual consumers who still want or need to run Windows XP.
It's also worth noting that there is a time limit -- which Microsoft is not disclosing -- on how long the company will continue to provide XP patches to those users who are paying for CSA coverage. And in order to qualify for CSA coverage, customers must have migration plans with quarterly deployment milestones and a project completion date.