Microsoft's end-of-support deadline for Windows XP last week came with mixed emotions. After 13 years of XP use on desktops worldwide, saying goodbye to the most dominating operating systems of its time begs a question: Should we continue to use and turn a blind eye to our beloved XP, saving the real innovation for the tablets and smartphones we increasingly rely on?
Or should IT departments be more wary and vigilant than ever of the risks XP now presents with a lack of security updates? In this piece, two analysts from the Aberdeen Group — Derek Brink, vice president and research fellow of the IT Security practice, and Jim Rapoza, senior research analyst of the Information Technology practice — respond to the end of Windows XP.
Is Windows XP the Last Great Desktop OS?
For those who aren't familiar with the history of desktop operating systems, back in the 1990s, two to three years was the typical effective lifespan of a version of Windows. But for the last 13 years, people have not only been using Windows XP regularly, it has remained one of the most used operating systems during much of that time. In fact, as Microsoft essentially puts Windows XP out to pasture, it still has 27 percent of the market, the No. 2 operating system in use behind Windows 7 (at 48 percent).
Even more incredibly, there is really no legitimate reason to stop using Windows XP outside of the lack of support. Almost anything a modern PC user needs to do can still be done with XP. In fact, my main personal system at home, which we use for browsing, music, image management and gaming, was running Windows XP up until two weeks ago, when I upgraded the system to Windows 7.
When Microsoft was putting Windows 98 out to pasture, I was similarly amazed at its seven-year-longevity. One key difference now as opposed to then is that the technology trends that have fueled Windows XP's longevity are not actually positive for desktop operating systems. In the '90s a 5-year-old PC was ancient. Today, there is nothing a computer built five years ago can't run well.
To a large part this is because PC's, while still useful, especially in business, are the technology devices of yesterday. There's a whole segment of people today who use a tablet or smartphone as their main computing device and don't own any form of PC or laptop.
When Windows XP debuted in 2001, the BlackBerry was still just a pager, most cellphones were still just phones and the iPhone was still six years away. And during the last 13 years, while desktop operating systems have barely evolved (evident in that nearly 30 percent of people still use a 13-year-old operating system), smartphones have basically gone from dumb cellphones to handheld computing platforms with more power than the personal computers of 2001.
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