Tick-tock. The clock is ticking for Windows XP. Microsoft is cutting support on the operating system on April 8, 2014. That means no more patches, no more new software versions, no more drivers for new peripherals.

But some businesses are stubborn. They see no reason to move from the reliable operating system that was released in 2001. That’s what we heard in response to our recent article by Howard Solomon, “The end of Windows XP: Some still haven’t got the message.”

It’s the end of Windows XP: Are you ready? Breakfast events across the country

To address some of those comments – and get to the truth about migrating away from Windows XP, we asked Steve Heck, the CIO of Microsoft Canada, to shoot a video with us to do some myth busting. Here are the comments we selected for a response, below. Watch the video to see Heck’s answers.

Commenter: apothecare

It’s almost less expensive to buy a new workstation with Windows 7 installed than it is to buy a new retail copy of Windows 7. The only problem is, moving everything to the new box and making it work isn’t a lot of fun for non-techy managers. Ironically, Microsoft will offer lots of support to enterprise level customers to make the move, but ignores the biggest chunk of users entirely – small businesses. Until Microsoft develops a better plan for helping SMBs make the switch, they just wont…

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Commenter: koconor100

If hackers find an exploit it’s because your fire wall sucks. The operating system has no business even trying to be a fire wall , a virus scanner, and 15 other things rolled into one.

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Commenter: vyengr

Some organizations simply may not be able to afford to move off XP based only on the implied threats associated with the end of XP support. Even if your current PC is suitable to run Windows 7 or 8, there is no migration path from XP to anything other than Vista. So every box must be rebuilt from scratch.

Many applications may require expensive upgrades to work in Windows 8 or not work at all. Not to mention incompatible peripherals. Small businesses on tight budgets are likely to take the approach of: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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  • vyengr

    I am flattered that Steve Heck took the time to respond to my comments. Thank you, Mr. Heck.
    I must, however, take issue with his suggestion that the migration tool (which I DO like and I have used) offers a true migration path from XP to Win 7+. While it will transfer your files and settings it will not migrate your software. And it is the installation of software that is the daunting part, especially for the non-technical user.
    Contrast that with my experience when I upgraded from Windows 2000 to XP: I put the DVD into my drive, started up the installer and walked away. After a couple of hours my operating system was upgraded and all of my software still worked. I didn’t have to reinstall anything. Same with upgrading from XP to Vista with the exception of a driver or two. If MS would offer the same kind of upgrade path from XP to Windows 7 or 8 I think there would be less resistance. In fact I think it could turn the tide completely. Even if you had to buy a new computer you could always clone the old XP hard drive and upgrade it on the new box to preserve your software. Users asked for that when Win 7 was released and no such solution was made available. Maybe there a re bucks to be made if some intrepid entrepreneur can create a real XP to Win 7 migration tool.

    I was somewhat surprised when I recently met with an advisor at one of Canada’s largest banks and I noticed both the desktop computer in the office and the laptop he carried were running XP. Maybe it ain’t broke there either or worse, if bank can’t afford to upgrade … well, ’nuff said.

  • apothecare

    Ditto… thanks VERY much Brian for exploring this issue further,
    raising our concerns and bringing Mr Heck into the discussion, makes it a
    lot less theoretical when another major player can be at the table
    too…

    Thanks also to Mr Heck for making the time to give some interesting perspective in favour of making the effort to migrate

    vyengr
    says it more eloquently than I did when he lays out the case for issues
    with migration and with all due respect to Mr Heck, the easy transfer
    tool is pretty limited (photos, music, word documents) but if you have
    any other kinds of software, CAD, graphic creation, etc, it all has to
    be moved by hand

    ironically, one of the trickiest parts
    is email, if you are using Outlook Express with XP, you have nothing to
    migrate to in Win 7

    In our business, I have two
    offices where there are side-by-side computers, one XP and one Win2K
    each paired with a Win 7 machine where the process of migration has come
    to a halt because a key piece of software can’t be duplicated on the
    new machine, either because the old software can’t run on Win 7 or it
    isn’t possible to locate all the data stores and move them to the new
    computer, so we have people switching from one machine to another, using
    a KVM switch, because they can fax on one machine but can’t access
    email and vice versa, or because the software was compiled to be run on a
    DOS machine, which XP can allow, but not Win 7

    So,
    I fully agree with Mr Heck that managing a business means considering
    what technology needs to do for you in the future, and that making
    deliberate investment in new hardware and software is better than
    dealing with crisis

    I for one like Win 7 very much and
    I’d be all in favour of running it on every workstation in our site,
    but the process of conversion is beyond my skills and the cost of
    outsourcing is beyond my budget, so I will sadly have to ride the status
    quo of my patchwork quilt of OS’es a little longer yet

    I
    wonder if, as vyengr points out, there was a real migration tool for
    XP>Win7 or maybe allowing the XP install to be moved to a Win 7 box
    and run as a VM within the “secure” environment of Win 7 would’ve been a
    possible solution

    anyway, Brian et al…kudos for your coverage and insights!!

    • Steve Heck

      I’m glad that both you and @vyengr:disqus appreciated my responses to the questions and I would like to call out the thoughtfulness of your position. I agree that the complete upgrade experience leaves some elements unaddressed (i.e. other applications). The core issues is that Win 7 / Win8 were build completely differently from XP to deliver on modern OS expectations and therefore application migration is not as straight forward as it is for Win 7 to Win 8/Win 8.1.

      The philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broke…’ does have some appeal to companies both large and small however it can also be connected to Canada’s fall in the innovation/productivity rankings. Some XP-based applications were very well written and continue to deliver business value, however we all would need to question applications that will now be 6-12 years old and whether they are doing their part to help companies grow, compete and live up to current user expectations (Banks included).

      I see XP as a catalyst that brings these broader issues to the surface. Specifically, that with innovation comes change and change isn’t always smooth, especially if you are not prepared / plan-full or have been putting off the inevitable.

      So yes, there will be effort involved in an XP upgrade but I’d counsel the industry to focus on the possibilities that current technology will unlock for their businesses so their XP upgrade is associated with strategic IT innovation. If we struggle with that, then Canada has bigger issues to deal with than just an OS upgrade.

  • apothecare

    Hey Brian, thanks again for making this conversation happen and for bringing in Mr Heck to add to the discourse
    Something he said in his follow-up reply got me thinking though, and it might be worthy of its own thread, that is…
    From a business POV, what ARE the benefits of non-specific technology upgrades such as the one we are discussing?
    Steve Heck makes the point that holding on to outdated technology puts businesses at risk to miss out on new efficiencies that might improve their competitiveness
    Might be so… what are they though?
    Allow me to wear my devil’s advocate hat for a second (since it fits so well)…
    Of core business applications, which ones are more efficient/effective/productive than the older generation ones that they replaced?
    Would upgrading to a new OS improve the way that my spreadsheet, word processing, internet browsing or database program works?
    Are my posts on Twitter, Facebook or Disqus more witty when I am running Windows 8 vs Windows XP?
    What new killer app for business runs only on Windows 8?
    Is paying for all my office productivity software every month FOREVER, better than just paying for it once and using the heck out of it for decades?
    Is moving critical and sensitive data to unregulated “cloud” storage more sensible than defined physical backups?
    Maybe its time to do a roundup of technologies that Canadian business SHOULD be using but aren’t, because they have let themselves fall behind the curve, tech-wise

  • koconor100

    Wow I was grumpy that day.

    Not retracting my statement , just … it could have been more polite.

    🙂

    • Ont. Jon

      Its ignorant to think that just because you have a firewall, you don’t need up to date patches and virus programs. With BYOD everywhere, USB drives, mobile workstations etc. its easy for someone to bring in a threat; without proper protection you expose your whole network. Spoken from an enterprise Sys admin!

  • Wow.. I can’t believe this thing happen…. Very much interesting perspective and really surprise with these events and things that are happening.

  • Denis

    I don’t catch something. MS has released Windows 8.1 and retail stores can no more sell Win 7. So how MS would help to jump from XP to unsold Win 7 ? I know Win 8 is a dead cat (who was stupid enough at MS to remove the Start menu ?) so Win 7 is a far better choice, but nonetheless, switching to 7 is not supported by MS…

  • Glebeman

    Hi… When it became apparent that XP was doomed I decided to research and, finally, move from PC to MAC. It was tough work, upfront, BUT has proved to be the best technical decision from my company. I have been a MAC person at home since it’s introduction and still running “compatible” software that is decades old without running into any walls. Something to consider, folks.