Windows XP is an operating system introduced in 2001 from Microsoft’s Windows family of operating systems, the previous version of Windows being Windows Me. The “XP” in Windows XP stands for eXPerience.
Microsoft called the XP release its most important product since Windows 95. Along with a redesigned look and feel to the user interface, the new operating system was built on the Windows 2000 kernel, giving users a more stable and reliable environment than previous versions of Windows.
Windows XP Versions
Windows XP was made available in in two versions, Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional. The company focused on mobility, such as technology allowed for in 2001, and included plug and play features for connecting to wireless networks. The operating system utilizes the 802.11x wireless security standard.
The initial Windows XP release was followed by the release of Windows XP 64-Bit Edition (v2002), Windows XP Media Center Edition and Windows XP 64-Bit Edition (v2003).
Microsoft to end Official Windows XP Support in April 2014
On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will cease official XP support. After this date users of the XP operating system will no longer receive patches or system updates to protect against viruses and malware. Because the operating system has been so popular and is still in use 11 years after release, the biggest problem facing users is choosing to continue to run an outdated operating system or upgrade to a new OS, which could mean a steep learning curve and increased costs. In addition to paying for a new operating system, some users looking to upgrade will find they need to upgrade system hardware to run a newer version of the Windows operating systems.
The Impact on Businesses
As of 2013 it is believed that more than 400 million computers still run the Windows XP operating system, representing a 37 percent market share, according to Small Business Computing. “Windows XP may seem like a relic of the past. For businesses, however, XP has proven to be a sturdy, stable and largely reliable OS — provided that you kept it updated and secure, of course. These traits help explain the 11 year-old operating system’s enduring popularity.”
The end of support for Windows XP translates into a huge number of desktops and laptops that may become targets for hackers and owners will be left to wrestle with software compatibility issues.
Even Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer 9 browser won’t run on Windows XP, but not all software will end compatibility right away. For example, Google announced that the Chrome browser will support Windows XP users until at least 2015. The exceptions will be few and far between, however. Software manufacturers will optimize for more recent versions of Windows so expect to find more applications and devices that are not Windows XP-compatible as official support for the operating system ends.
Government Computers Especially Vulnerable
According to recent news reports, the expiration of official Windows XP support will impact government computers. “Federal officials have known for more than six years that Microsoft will withdraw its free support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. Despite a recent rush to complete upgrades, an estimated 10 percent of government computers — out of several million — will still be running the operating system on that date, company officials said.” cites the Washington Post. The article also claims that federal officials asked Microsoft to extend its deadline for ending support for Windows XP, but the request was denied.
Anti-Malware Signatures for One Year
To help ease the transition from the outdated operating system, Microsoft has said it will continue to issue anti-malware updates for Windows XP for more than a year after the April deadline passes to help organizations complete their migrations. eWeek notes that for enterprise customers, this applies to System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune running on Windows XP.
To Upgrade or Not?
As noted in the Datamation article, there are effectively two sides to the “upgrade or not” discussion. First, one is the updating of current, existing software. The assumption being that the current state of things is “working” with the accepted possibility that “working” might include a security exposure that has been discovered and requires updating in order to close. The other scenario is a new deployment where there is nothing currently and we are starting from scratch.