Who wants Windows XP to live forever?

And so the most popular PC operating system of all time reaches the final winter of its years.

Windows XP goes out of regular support on 8 April, but it is testament to its enduring success that Microsoft has been forced to extend provision of anti-malware updates for another year, and millions of users will remain covered by extended support agreements taken out by their employers.

According to web stats firm Netmarketshare.com, as many as 27% of all PCs still use XP.

We don’t know how many UK government PCs still rely on XP – there are about 650,000 in the NHS alone – but the Cabinet Office has paid out £5.5m to keep its XP estate covered for another 12 months.

Most of the UK’s ATM networks run on versions of XP too, with banks also having to sign up to extended support.

We have all become used to the idea that old software ceases to be, but the lingering reliance on XP does raise questions about whether users really want constant new versions for every application.

XP has continued because it works – it does a job, it does it well, it is reliable, no-frills and for many applications it could have happily kept going for a long time yet. It’s only the fear of unpatched security vulnerabilities that is driving laggards to migrate.

Many observers have been critical of organisations that have failed to move off a system that has been flagged for its end of life for a few years – it has hardly come as a surprise that XP support is ending.

But those criticisms assume that an endless cycle of version releases is always going to be the state of play in IT.

Microsoft’s rivals such as Apple and Google have already dispensed with the concept – moving instead to constant, free version updates that are either applied automatically in the cloud or pushed to user devices.

Microsoft struggles with that concept because its Windows and Office business models are predicated on licence fees for every new version.

But if we are really moving into the age of user need, with the balance of power in the hands of users not their suppliers, then much greater flexibility and choice is inevitable. In a different climate, XP might have continued safely on as a legacy operating system for many years.

Read more:

Windows XP support will end this year – are you prepared?

Microsoft urges businesses on Windows XP to migrate

Failure to migrate from Windows XP could torpedo your business

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