Preston Gralla

Microsoft tells its partners: Windows XP must die

July 09, 2013 11:51 AM EDT

A great inhibitor to Windows 8 growth are the die-hards who continue to hang on to their aging Windows XP systems. To get the recalcitrants to upgrade, Microsoft is warning its partners that support for the 11-year-old operating system will end on April 8, 2014. After that time, even security patches won't be released.

At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference yesterday, Erwin Visser, General Manager of Windows Commercial, told its reseller and system integrator partners that Microsoft has two top priorities for 2014: Dragging businesses away from their continued use of Windows XP, and making Windows 8 tablets the top business tablet.

Visser used both a carrot and a stick. The stick was a reminder that on April 8, 2014, Microsoft will stop issuing patches of all kinds for Windows XP, including security patches. This will put partners who are still supporting XP in a bind, because their customers will be at greater risk if they continue using XP systems.

The carrot was the profits to be made by moving their customers off of XP. Mary Jo Foley writes:

"Visser told partners that there's an estimated $32 billion service opportunity for them in moving users off XP, given that companies are spending an average of $200 per PC to move off XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8."

Other carrots are a variety of financial incentives to move businesses away from XP, including paying resellers and integrators to build "proof-of-concept" Metro apps, as a way to show businesses what types of capabilities the new operating system has.

The market share figures make clear why moving people off XP is so important for Microsoft. Some 11 years after launch, it still has a whopping 37.17 percent of market share, compared to 5.1% for Windows 8 as of June, 2013, according to the latest figures from Netmarketshare.com. Windows 7 is proving to be popular as well, with many businesses not likely to upgrade from it anytime soon. So XP is Microsoft's big target.

It's a daunting task. Visser told its partners that 586,000 PCs per day would have to be migrated off of XP in order to have every XP machine gone by the time support for XP ends. He doesn't expect that to happen; he said the goal was to get XP below ten percent by that time.

To that, I say, good luck. It's unlikely to happen. People and businesses are staying with XP and away from Windows 8 for a reason: XP does what they want, and Windows 8 doesn't. Until that is fixed, all the carrots and all the sticks won't get people to upgrade from XP to Windows 8.