S'pore SMBs might fall through Win XP trapdoor

Windows XP support ends in 12 months, but 11.8 percent of PCs in Singapore have yet to be migrated to a newer version. They will need to do so or be vulnerable to online attacks, says Microsoft.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor on

SINGAPORE--Local small and midsize businesses (SMBs) still on Windows XP machines need to embark on a PC refresh within the next 12 months or be left vulnerable to online threats, which are growing more sophisticated and harder to combat by the day.

That's the advice given by Jason Lim, general manager of Windows Division at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, who also noted the larger enterprises in the city-state are generally more forward-looking and have completed their migration to a more advanced Windows operating system or are in the midst of transiting. Redmond had designated April 8, 2014 as the deadline for the end of XP support.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia Tuesday, Lim cited figures from StatCounter which showed that 11.8 percent of Singapore PCs are still running Windows XP as of March this year although it does not differentiate between enterprise users and consumers. Microsoft's internal estimates put the number of machines still running the soon-to-be 12-year-old software here at 717,955, he added.

"SMBs are more of a concern, hence this reminder [for them to migrate]," the executive stated, adding the software vendor has been ramping up efforts to encourage companies to adopt newer versions of the Windows operating system (OS).

These efforts include educating channel partners, resellers, and independent software vendors (ISVs) on the various migration tools available, particularly for application compatibility, which Lim noted is usually where challenges crop up.

He also said there will be offers that SMBs here can look forward to in the next two months, as part of Microsoft's migration push. These include discounts for Windows-based computers and software licenses, the executive said.

Lim also pointed to bring-your-own-device and IT consumerization trends as two other push factors for companies to migrate to more advanced operating systems, given that the older software would not be able to support workers in terms of mobility and working on the move.

Two analysts echoed Lim's sentiments in prepared statements issued by Microsoft. Bryan Ma, associate vice president of client devices research at IDC Asia-Pacific, said Windows XP has been a major platform that both consumers and businesses alike have depended on many years.

"And yet with the termination of extended support for XP looming, it is important that preparations be made to migrate to newer versions of the OS in order to make sure users can continue to rely on their systems," Ma said.

Similarly, Alan Tong, Asia-Pacific director at Frost & Sullivan, said new technologies in mobile computing and the sophistication of network security attacks will test the performance of Windows XP when support ceases.

"Enterprises need to consider the functional costs and the vulnerability of their PCs if they continue with the existing OS," Tong stressed.

Snapshot of Asia's XP usage

Source: Microsoft

Singapore companies are not the only ones which are at risk of falling through the Windows XP trapdoor. Across Asia, there is a varying number of computing machines still running the aged software.

South Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan are the three markets with the highest number of PCs still powered by Windows XP, according to Microsoft estimates. South Korea has about 14.81 million PCs with the OS, while Indonesia has 11.46 million and Taiwan has 8.86 million, the company stated.

In terms of percentages, though, Vietnam and Indonesia came in the top two, according to StatCounter. Vietnam has about 45.79 percent of its PCs still on XP and Indonesia has 42.65 percent as of March 2013. By comparison, 42.08 percent of PCs are on Windows 7 in Vietnam and 45.56 percent of PCs in Indonesia.

Besides Windows 7, companies can also upgrade to Microsoft's latest OS, Windows 8, which was introduced last October. During the Singapore launch, Alvaro Celis, vice president of Microsoft Asia-Pacific, pointed to BYOD and shadow IT as main drivers for Asian businesses to adopt the OS although he acknowledged Windows 7 rollouts are still ongoing and uptake for Windows 8 will be slow as a result.

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