Thursday, 3 April 2014

End of Windows XP - good news for some?

There has been a lot of talk about the end of Microsoft support on April 8th 2014 for Windows XP SP3.

Who ate all the TeleTubbies?

Recently, there have been some articles on why you should switch to a newer, supported OS like Windows 8.1. However, I suspect that many people and small businesses will continue to use XP for at least 6 month to a year. I know that many people in 'poorer' countries still install and use XP illegally. I also know that in these countries, many computer shops openly pre-install XP (activated but unlicensed!) for their customers.

XP may still be used in many pieces of equipment that you use: disk copiers, stage lighting consoles, recording/mixing desks, data servers that 'just sit there and work', card payment systems, etc. It has been said that 95% of the worlds ATMs run XP (embedded) - though I doubt these are updated with the latest hotfixes every week or even once a year!.

So the question is, will XP really die after April 2104?... Of course not!

Many people will continue to use XP for many years. However, there is one thing that the end of MS support does mean, and that is the end of XP drivers for new products. Why is that such a big deal?...

Many businesses and education establishments demand XP drivers, because their systems and applications still run on XP. This, in turn, puts pressure on the chipset manufacturers and specialised peripheral manufacturers to develop and release XP drivers and associated software.

Over recent years, it has been harder to find XP drivers for new systems, but now it will be impossible. Chipset, peripheral and card manufacturers now have a perfect excuse to not supply XP drivers for their new products because XP is no longer supported by Microsoft. In fact, these manufacturers had actually ceased to 'support'  XP since late 2013 for any of their new products.

So it will be a death by attrition. As old hardware dies and is replaced by newer hardware, there will be a dearth of XP drivers for any new hardware.

Windows 8 has been around since August 2012 and there is now a good driver base for all hardware and peripherals (at least for all hardware younger than 5-6 years of age). However, most of the people running XP will have older peripherals such as old printers, scanners, etc. It is hard to find drivers for these old peripherals now for Win7/8, as the manufacturers don't write and release drivers for kit they no longer sell.

Equally, A lot of XP software does not run under Win7/8 very well (which is why companies have held onto their old XP systems and their bespoke software and hardware). If you have an old XP laptop, the special drivers for these (e.g. hotkeys, special trackpad features, power managent, docking bays, etc.) will not be available for Win7/8. These hardware drivers won't work in a VM running XP on a Win7/8 system either!

So changing from XP to Win8.1 actually involves more expense than just paying for a new OS. For XP users it involves:

1. A new system (Win7/8 won't run too well on low-memory PCs and no drivers for old laptops)
2. A new OS
3. New peripherals (no drivers for older printers/scanners and special peripherals for midi/recording/video capture, etc.)
4. A lot of time getting it all to work from the IT department
5. Training costs

This is all good news for the poor old PC industry which has been in decline over the last few years.

So what can we look forward to after April 2014? My guess is:

1. Increased sales of PC and related software and hardware products
2. Increase in hacks for activating Win 7/8 illegally
3. XP-alike versions of linux gaining in popularity
4. Increase in jobs for consultants who specialise in upgrading systems, writing/converting software and training.

Maybe it's time for me to buy shares in PC World and Microsoft...