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Windows XP holdouts: Meet the diehard faithful who refuse to move on

Ian Paul | April 8, 2014
After more than 12 years, Windows XP breathes its last gasp on Tuesday, April 8, when Microsoft will issue the final security update for the aging OS.

After more than 12 years, Windows XP breathes its last gasp on Tuesday, April 8, when Microsoft will issue the final security update for the aging OS.

Nearly every longtime Windows user looks back on Windows XP with a certain fondness, but the party's over, at least according to Microsoft. "It's time to move on," says Tom Murphy, Microsoft's director of communications for Windows. "XP was designed for a different era."

Despite Microsoft's urgings, which began in earnest nearly two-and-a-half years ago, a sizable portion of the world's PC users are still actively using Windows XP. During March 2014, close to 30 percent of all Internet-connected PCs worldwide were running XP, according to Net Market Share. Only Windows 7 surpassed XP in PC usage.

There's no doubt about it: Many, many people around the world refuse to give up on XP anytime soon. But why? What's so great about an operating system that was invented before the age of Dropbox and Facebook, an OS that's almost as old as the original Google search engine?

After talking to a number of current XP users, we've reached one major conclusion: For many of them, PCs aren't snazzy tech gadgets, but home appliances that still work just fine. Beyond that there's suspicion toward Windows 8, migration hassles and costs, personal preference, and a heavy dose of skepticism about the fundamental insecurity of Windows XP.

Who's afraid of the big, bad malware?

When you ask Microsoft why it's urging users to give up Windows XP for a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 PC, it all comes down to security. "XP was launched in 2001, which means the design and engineering started in the 90s," Murphy says. "At that time, the types of threats and risks you found online were really different and a lot less sophisticated than what we see now. Windows 7 and 8.1 start with security in mind, they are created and designed to be inherently more secure. XP predates all that work, because these threats simply didn't exist."

But many XP users aren't buying it.

"They built an awful lot of bomb shelters back in the 50's with the same kind of mindset," says Dallas-based Pix Smith, a puppeteer and magician who uses an XP PC for online research and small-business bookkeeping. Smith acknowledges that an attack against his PC is possible, but he argues that when it comes to malware, the odds are in his favor.

"As with most of those things, the number of people affected versus the total number of users is a really, really, low percentage, if you are relatively prudent," Smith said. "And I like to think that I'm a relatively prudent user. I don't do a lot of things that would open me up to malware."

 

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