RIP Windows XP: the 'zombie' operating system that came to haunt Microsoft

Microsoft's most popular operating system – Windows XP – has come to haunt the corporation. Thirteen years after it launched, it's being laid to rest

If you hear a faint whoop of jubilation from across the Atlantic in a couple of weeks' time, don't be surprised. It will be the cry of Microsoft executives celebrating finally having achieved what, for years, seemed impossible: the laying to rest of its mighty Windows XP operating system.

Within computing circles, XP has become known as a zombie: the operating system that Microsoft, despite its best efforts, just could not kill. The software launched in 2001 is still installed on a third of all PCs. Only Windows 7 (released in 2009) has managed to have any real impact, being installed on just under half of all PCs today. But even then, Microsoft would much prefer that people were using the very latest OS, Windows 8.1.

So, come 8 April, executives will be cheering. On that day, Microsoft will finally cease its support of XP. The zombie OS really will become the walking dead, as the wolves, in the form of hackers, viruses and malware, start to circle. Computers running the operating system will become more vulnerable as Microsoft stops releasing security patches, and there will be no more automatic updates. Meanwhile, hackers may look to reverse-engineer security updates that appear for Windows 7 or 8/8.1, hoping to find unpatched exploits that they can use to gain access to systems. The zombie OS will start to haunt its users, becoming unpredictable and dangerous.

XP's demise has been a long time coming – Microsoft even released an XP End of Support Countdown Gadget – but there will surely be some sadness tinged with the relief. Perhaps, during its countdown, Microsoft could spend the hours reminiscing about the dark days in 2007, when disgruntled users sent Vista, XP's successor, packing back to Redmond (just under 4 per cent of computers have it installed). Or it could recall the more recent struggles, which have seen Windows 8 users left staring at their screens in search of a start button.

But how did XP fall so far from grace in Microsoft's eyes? Its problem is that it became too popular. A gap of six years between its release and Vista was far too long. During that time, new computers were being shipped with XP pre-installed, and by January 2006, 400 million copies were in use. It coincided with an explosion in PC sales so, for many, it was their first taste of Windows.

It gave XP ample opportunity to gain a real foothold in the market on a scale that utterly clouded any computing success that had gone before it. Given that some companies don't update their machines for years on end, the numbers stacked up and it became even more difficult for subsequent releases to knock it off its perch.

To make matters worse for Microsoft, people have become used to the interface. Some businesses don't want to spend money on replacing systems that work, nor do they want to fork out on retraining their staff. IT professionals aren't helping much, either. Online IT community Spiceworks says 76 per cent of IT consultants are still running Windows XP on at least one system. "Folks don't like change," says technology analyst Rob Enderle. "And Microsoft is less aggressive in forcing change than Apple. So the folks that hate change the most just didn't move."

So what happens now? For a while, not much. Windows XP will still continue to run on people's machines. It will even continue to benefit from anti-malware measures – Microsoft announced in January that it may be scrapping automatic updates, service packs and tech support but it will carry on battling against viruses and hackers until 15 April 2015.

There are solutions. Users could switch to Apple, install the open-source operating system Linux or just upgrade to a more up-to-date Windows. This latter option may mean buying a new computer, although some users will just be able to buy a copy of Windows 7 or 8. "The problem is," says Enderle, "Windows 7 is already obsolete and has been superseded by Windows 8. And Windows 8 is such a big change, thanks to the fact it is touchscreen and has a new interface. Plus, once people move, Microsoft will have another problem: getting them to move again in the future."

You sense that, if Microsoft had its way, the monster it created would already be under 10 feet of concrete and peppered with a few silver bullets, just to be on the safe side.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

    Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

    Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Coordinator

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent