As XP Dies, Will Users Step to Windows 7, 8 or Something Else?

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While Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer boasted this week about brisk sales of Windows 7, another Microsoft exec, Stephen Rose, blogged dire warnings that lingering Windows XP users will face security hazards if they don’t upgrade to Win 7 by April of 2014. Yet in almost the same breath, Microsoft is giving sneak peeks at an early edition of Windows 8, an OS tentatively planned for late 2012.

Microsoft has now sold 400 million copies of Windows 7, Ballmer declared, speaking at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partners Conference. The Microsoft CEO did not break out those numbers in terms of how much of that software came pre-installed on new PCs.

Largely regarded as a huge improvement over its direct predecessor, the overly bloated Windows Vista, Windows 7 contains many capabilities that have found favor with users, such as a Snap feature for resizing windows, Jump Lists for faster access to items on the desktop, and HomeGroup for home networking.

At the same time, though, legions of users — both consumers and businesses alike– have balked at replacing Windows XP on older PCs, whether because of costs or installation issues.

Meanwhile, sales of new PCs are not exactly booming. Last month, industry analyst firm IDC cut its PC sales growth projection for 2011 from 7.1 percent down to 4.2 percent, citing factors that include slow economic recovery, rivalry from tablets and smartphones, and the fact that most households in developed nations now already own PCs.

In fact, Ballmer estimated in his keynote that between half and two-thirds of all the PCs in the world continue to run XP.

Now, on at least a couple of fronts, Microsoft is clearly trying to leverage the impending death of Windows XP in less than 1000 days as a way of further pumping up Windows 7 sales.

“On April 8, 2014, security patches and hotfixes for all versions of Windows XP will no onger be available. So bottom line, PC’s running Windows XP will be vulnerable to security threats,” Microsoft’s Rose wrote in a blog post on Microsoft’s Web site.

“Furthermore, many third party software providers are not planning to extend support for their applications running on Windows XP, which translates to even more complexity, security risks, and ultimately, added management costs for your IT department if you’re still managing Windows XP environments,” according to Rose, who is Microsoft’s senior community manager.

XP users do have other choices, however, aside from moving to Windows 7. Users can wait for Windows 8 instead, or ditch Windows PCs entirely in favor of Apple Macintoshes, Linux PCs, iPads, Android tablets, or smartphones, for instance.

It seems likely that many of the large businesses still using XP will start to step to Windows 7 soon, due to existing investments in Windows infrastructures and the time it takes to make massive migrations to a new end user operating system (OS).

Consumers and small businesses, though, might well decide to jump from XP to Windows 8, skipping Win 7 entirely, if Win 8 makes it out the door any time before April of 2014.

Rumors have long swirled about Windows 8, an OS touted by Microsoft as one that will be able to run on PCs and slate tablets alike.

An early edition demoed by Microsoft over the past couple of months features a touch interface and “live tiles” similar to those in Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.

Somewhat ironically, Ballmer conceded in his speech this week that sales of Windows Phone 7 smartphones have not gone well so far.

Ballmer also contended, however, that because of Microsoft’s new partnership with Nokia for building Windows 7 smartphones, “You’re going to see a lot of progress in that market competitively as we move forward.”







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