Being the technology enthusiasts that we are here at Thunderbolt Digital, our hard working team of web developers and graphic designers are always keeping up to date with the latest digital news and rumours. One such story that surfaced this week, and one we’ve been keeping a particularly keen eye on, has been Microsoft’s recent decision to discontinue future security updates and support for it’s popular operating system, Windows XP. With an estimated one in five computers running Windows XP, what are the repercussions of this?
Debuting in October 2001, Microsoft sold 400 million copies of Windows XP worldwide in the first five years of sale. The public’s response to the new operating system was very positive. Despite the release of Windows Vista in 2006, businesses and consumers alike demanded XP to still be available for purchase, resulting in Windows XP cultivating a bigger desktop share than any other Microsoft operating system, bar Windows 7 in more recent years. This was mainly due to its sleek default theme “Luna”, and being the first operating system available to consumers in 34 bit and 64 bit versions from Microsoft.
The surprising plethora of consumer appreciation and dedication towards this outdated operating system has lead to much heated debate on Microsoft’s decision to withdraw support for XP. Perhaps the primary reason behind this decision is to reinforce Microsoft’s bid to encourage existing XP users around the world to upgrade to a newer operating system, such as Windows 7 or 8.
Microsoft has estimated that the migration of a company consisting of at least 5,000 units supporting Windows XP would take between 18 and 36 months. The fact of the matter is that this upgrade, which is only now being forced upon the world, should have been instigated years ago. Upgrading now can be rather expensive and time consuming. Furthermore, many personal computers supporting Windows XP run business specific applications that have been developed using this operating system. As a result, on top of the cost of upgrading to a newer version of Windows, businesses will have to invest in newer software packages, or even bespoke development, in order to migrate the functionality of these applications to a new operating system.
Experts believe that around 95% of the world’s ATMs (or cash machines for us Brits) run on Windows XP. This is rather alarming as the recent development from Microsoft will likely result in units running XP to become unreliable in terms of security, making it vulnerable to viruses (such as the heartbleed bug) and internet hackers. The UK software company AppSense carried out a study revealing that 77% of organisations in the UK, including half of the country’s councils and a large part of the NHS, are still using XP. In a statement last week, the UK government announced that it has negotiated a special contract with Microsoft to provide Windows XP support and security updates at the cost of £5,548,000,000 for the next twelve months.
When all is said and done, it comes down to individual users and businesses alike to decide whether or not to upgrade. Many people are arguing that the reaction towards the recent dismemberment of future security updates is a reflection upon the hysteria surrounding the millennium bug. Expanding on this, many say that the consequences of Microsoft’s decision will not have as big an impact as many are predicting it to have. Ultimately, deciding not to upgrade is only postponing the inevitable, as upgrading to a newer version of Windows will be necessary down the road at some point or another.
Fortunately for us here at Thunderbolt Digital we mainly utilise Apple products in our web development and graphic design endeavours, so Microsoft’s recent changes will not impact us greatly. If you or your company are still operating on XP, or you know anyone who is, we advise that you to think about upgrading sooner rather than later, to protect yourself against any potentially costly digital threats.
From everyone here at Thunderbolt Digital, we all hope you are being safe whilst using your computers, and taking the right precautions in doing so.