Microsoft Windows XP, Office 2003: Sounding the Alarm for Their Sunset

Microsoft urges businesses to upgrade as it prepares to cut support for its 11-year-old OS within a year. Time is running out.

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will end support for its venerable Windows XP desktop operating system, along with Office 2003. In a year, users will face the choice of upgrading to more recent versions or risk running software that will no longer be patched to counter newly unearthed vulnerabilities and the security threats that inevitably follow.

In a post in The Official Microsoft Blog, editor Jeff Meisner detailed what the impending support cut-off date means for XP and Office 2003 users.

"Starting April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide support for Windows XP users. This means that customers and partners will no longer receive security updates to the operating system or be able to leverage tech support from Microsoft after this time," wrote Meisner.

The solution, he said, is an upgrade away. "Moving away from Windows XP to a more modern platform in Windows 7 and Windows 8 will ready your IT infrastructure for future technology solutions and growth of your company," added Meisner.

But this is easier said than done. Recent data from Web traffic analytics firm Net Applications indicates that despite its age, XP remains a popular OS.

In March 2013, Windows XP was second only to Windows 7 in Net Applications' OS rankings. XP maintained its grip on 38.73 percent of the OS market in March, shedding just 0.26 percentage points from the previous month. By comparison, Windows 7 holds 44.73 percent of the OS market while Windows 8 makes up just 3.31 percent (including Windows RT).

Windows XP owes its longevity to several factors, some of which Microsoft had no control over. An economic downturn put the brakes on upgrades for many consumers, and XP's popularity in emerging markets helped keep the user base robust. Despite a splashy debut, its successor, Windows Vista, failed to catch on, cementing XP's place atop the OS market.

Eager to put the Windows XP era to bed, the software behemoth is pleading with companies to start making upgrade plans for the sake of their IT budgets and the security of their corporate data.

"While end of support for Windows XP is still one year away, the migration process can take some time and may be costlier the longer you stay on Windows XP, ultimately putting your business at risk. The security landscape is ever-changing and new threats are coming to fruition every day, so it is critical that businesses ensure they protect their data and IP against the latest threats by deploying a modern Windows platform," wrote Windows senior director Erwin Visser in an April 8 blog post.

To sweeten the deal—at least for smaller enterprises—Visser revealed a promotion, which Microsoft referred to as its Get2Modern offer. From now until June 30, small and midsized businesses can save up to 15 percent on up to 249 licenses of Windows 8 Pro and Office 2013 Standard, each.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...