Following the news this week that Windows XP support will end in a year's time, experts have weighed in to warn that Microsoft is unlikely to relent on this deadline, and to offer business users a range of options to move forward.
As reported previously by V3, support for Windows XP will be withdrawn as of April 8, 2014, meaning that Microsoft will no longer provide patches or hot fixes for security issues that may come to light.
However, despite Microsoft making this cut-off date abundantly clear to customers for at least five years, many business desktops are still running the platform, and time is running short to do anything about it.
Some V3 readers responded to the one-year countdown by stating that they intended to stay with Windows XP, in the belief that if enough customers do the same, Microsoft will be forced to continue support for the platform.
However, firms doing this will be putting themselves at substantial risk, according to analyst firm Directions On Microsoft, which specialises in advice on Microsoft licensing issues and product roadmaps.
"I don't think customers should be gambling right now that Microsoft will continue Extended Support past the cut-off date," lead analyst Wes Miller told V3.
Microsoft has only done this once, back in 2008, when poor uptake of Windows Vista persuaded the firm to extend XP support to next year's cut-off date, adding three extra years to the period usually dictated by Microsoft's standard lifecycle policy.
This bought time for Microsoft to deliver Windows 7 and for organisations to plan a migration to that platform, but it is unlikely that Microsoft will be prepared to repeat the move a second time.
"If Windows 2000 is any indication, when Extended Support stops, updates (including security updates) will stop. Microsoft has been clear about their support plans for Windows XP for some time. Customers should have their exit strategy for Windows XP in process, not be hoping for an extension," Miller said.
For those unwilling to consider a forklift upgrade of all desktops to Windows 7 or Windows 8, analyst firm Ovum suggests that organisations could instead consider implementing a virtual desktop strategy or replacing their Windows XP laptops with tablets.
"The cost of upgrading hundreds or thousands of desktop and laptop computers to a new operating is significant in terms of time and money, so organisations should consider how their IT budgets might be invested in more innovative projects," said principal analyst Richard Edwards.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), when used in conjunction with application virtualisation tools, can bring expensive-to-run distributed desktop environments back under centralised control and administration, he claimed.
More radically, Edwards suggested that ageing XP laptops could be replaced with tablets.
"A Windows laptop is overkill for many field-based employees, and they cost much more to service and support than an Android or iOS tablet," he said.
However, simply ditching old PCs and investing in new models with Windows 7 or Windows 8 may be the simplest path for many customers, despite the cost.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is offering small or medium sized businesses a discount to upgrade from Windows XP as part of its Get2Modern scheme.
Until the end of June, customers can get a 15 percent discount on Windows 8 Pro and Office Standard 2013, limited to 249 licenses per customer.
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