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Good and Bad News: Microsoft Ending Support For Windows XP

April 9th, 2014 - Posted by Ben Thomson, Director of Operations

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Even though we at RedTie, as SaaS based Web to Print software developers, are predominately interested in browser technology, the news that Windows XP is no longer being supported is still important news for us. Windows XP was an incredibly popular Operating System for PCs and even now, more than 10 years after the release date, it still has a huge market share (some sources even suggest it still has over 15% market share). 
 
So why are we saying it is bad news, surely an old product disappearing is nearly always a good thing in the world of computers. Well there are a couple of issues, first Windows XP was a great operating system and with low system requirements for PC’s (especially by today’s standards) it allowed people to continue using under-powered equipment.
 
The potentially worse news is that with official support stopping this week, machines running Windows XP are at an increasingly greater risk of being infected and hijacked by malware and viruses. Microsoft constantly fixes vulnerabilities in their software and new ones crop up all of the time. Up until this week if they found a problem in one of their versions they would find a fix and apply it to all versions of Windows from XP onwards. Today’s announcement means that will no longer happen for XP. What is worse is that when they fix it on the more recent versions of Windows, people who wish to exploit security flaws will become aware of the vulnerability and will know that it has not been patched on Windows XP.
 
It’s a real problem and there is not necessarily an easy fix. A lot of these machines are not powerful enough to upgrade and in many cases they are running business critical applications that will not work on more modern OS’s without redevelopment.  These machines, if they are connected to the internet, will become more and more at risk, although to some extent, vigilant users, good firewalls and up to date virus protection will help mitigate some of this. I am sure there will be third party companies that will, for a fee, offer to keep supporting XP for years to come, although this is likely to be very expensive. 
 
So what is the upside of support ending this week, the good news? Well hopefully it will lead to more people upgrading to a more modern OS. The huge downside to Windows XP is that Microsoft stopped developing the web browser for it at Internet Explorer 8. Unlike XP, IE8 is the worst browser still being significantly used today. It wasn’t even good when it was released but now it is every web developers nightmare and it is definitely stifling innovation. If you are using IE8 and don’t believe me then install a modern browser like Chrome (which should work fine on XP) and find out what you have been missing.