Windows XP Requires Long-Term Microsoft Support: 10 Reasons Why

News Analysis: With Microsoft ending support for Windows XP Service Pack 2, it might be time for the company to rethink discontinuing the operating system itself in 2014.

Microsoft has officially discontinued support for Windows XP Service Pack 2. Although the company will continue to support Service Pack 3 through 2014, it's worth nothing that nearly 50 percent of the world's computers are still running Service Pack 2. Going forward, owners won't have the support they need to keep their systems safe.

But Microsoft's decision to stop supporting Service Pack 2 goes beyond just that version of the operating system. It makes it clear to its users that XP is losing its value to the software giant. That's unfortunate. Windows XP was the best OS release of the past decade. By slowly pushing users to its newer operating systems, Microsoft could be making a huge mistake. Not only will some folks opt to stick with XP, but others won't find happiness in Windows 7. The result is an issue that impacts all stakeholders.

Whether Microsoft likes it or not, the company needs to support XP indefinitely. It's simply too important to its operation. Here's why:

1. Nearly 50 percent still run XP SP2

As noted, a recent study from research firm Softchoice found that nearly 45 percent of all computers are still running Windows XP Service Pack 2. That alone should be enough for Microsoft to continue supporting the operating system. Windows XP was an unbridled success that is still being employed as the go-to operating system for both consumers and companies around the world. By not supporting a key build of that operating system, Microsoft is effectively saying to nearly 50 percent of the world's computer users that they need to keep up with the times, or their data will be put into danger.

2. The enterprise isn't switching

Microsoft's decision to no longer support XP Service Pack 2 smacks of the company trying desperately to prod the corporate world into adopting Windows 7. From a business standpoint, it's understandable. But for the enterprise, switching to Windows 7 at this point just doesn't look like the best idea. Not only are they concerned about the productivity and security problems that might come along with switching to Windows 7, but they're also heavily invested in XP and, due to the recession, may not have the available funds to invest in new technology. The vast majority of companies around the world are running XP on at least some computers. The last thing Microsoft should want to do is stop supporting those firms.

3. What about the world?

Discussions about Microsoft's decision to discontinue its support for Service Pack 2 have left out a key component that can't be overlooked: People in developing countries rely on XP. To simply stop supporting XP would potentially cause security problems for those people, which at this point, they just don't need as technology becomes an even greater part of their lives. Microsoft's reach is second to none in the software space. It's a key component in its success. But if it decides to turn its back on XP before it should, the company would also effectively turn its back on people all over the world who rely on XP to get technology into their lives.

4. Netbooks are a key battleground

Although speculation abounds over the future of netbooks, there is a chance that the lightweight computers will survive against tablets. And if that happens, Microsoft, which currently dominates the space with Windows XP, would be dumb to stop supporting its old operating system. Right now, Microsoft offers a version of Windows 7 designed for netbooks. But for the vast majority of consumers, Windows XP works just fine, and they don't see a reason to switch. If Microsoft doesn't support XP indefinitely, the company could put its netbook operation at risk, and potentially give Linux or even Google's Chrome OS the opening they need to capitalize. XP is extremely important in the netbook market. Microsoft can't forget that.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...