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BLOG: Why Microsoft won't convert Windows XP holdouts

Andy Patrizio | April 16, 2013
Some PCs aren't going anywhere until they flat-out die.

Microsoft did a pretty good job putting Internet Explorer 6 out to pasture, but it took a whole lot of nudging, cajoling, begging, and, finally, threatening some kneecaps to get people migrating. In the end, it took pushing IE 8 out as part of Patch Tuesday to finally retire the ancient browser.

Now it's trying again with Windows XP. One year from now, Microsoft pulls the plug on XP support, and this time they mean it. They have two legacy operating systems to support, and that's enough. I'm with them on this one. XP has got to go. The problem is, it won't.

Four years after the launch of Windows 7 and six months after Windows 8, the company is still vexed by the persistence of Windows XP. The March 2013 numbers from Net Applications show that Windows 7 is used on 44.73% of systems and XP has 38.73% of the market. Windows 8 is at a paltry 3.17% of the market, making it less popular than Vista, which has 4.99% market share.

Things get a lot better with Steam Analytics, which focus exclusively on home users and gamers in the U.S. There, Windows 7 has 68.5% total market share, most of it 64-bit, while Windows 8 has finally pulled ahead of XP: 10.67% for Win 8 to 8.72% for XP. In both cases, the 32-bit and 64-bit versions were combined.

And here's where the first clue comes in: Of the 10.67% using Windows 8, 9.92% were using the 64-bit system. Only 0.75% used the 32-bit version, and given that there aren't any 32-bit x86 machines being sold anymore, we can safely deduce those are old machines that were upgraded.

I'll go so far as to add that I think those were XP machines that were upgraded, not Windows 7 machines. So when Microsoft makes a plea for XP users to upgrade and dangles a 15% discount off the OS, I suspect it will fall on deaf ears. If they didn't upgrade when Microsoft sold it for $49, they aren't going to bite now.

Who are these holdouts, the 38.73% (or 8.72%, depending on which analytics you believe) of XP users who say 'hell no, we won't go'? I believe they are the same as the 4.99% who use Vista (again, citing Net Applications): they are people who will use their PC until it dies and won't upgrade until then. Why else would 5% of the population stick with Vista? It's not because they like it. It's because they will use that PC until it dies. Then they will replace it, and not before.

These folks are not going to upgrade. Chances are the PC is too old and couldn't run Windows 8 properly to begin with. Second, upgrading an OS is a major pain. People with a five-year-old XP machine have it running fine. The last thing they want to do is disrupt things.


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