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500 MEELLION PCs still run Windows XP. How did we get here?

Just six months to go: what to do if you don't have $200 per PC

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Where did all the upgraders go?

Adrian Foxall, chief executive of application migration specialist Camwood, whose survey earlier this year found one in seven Windows XP users are in denial, told, The Reg the numbers still hold up.

“I’m not sure the percentage has massively changed in the last few months,” he said.

But how did it get so bad?

Microsoft’s Paulson reckons awareness is picking up – he claimed a "15 per cent increase in awareness" over the summer, but it’s been a long time coming and it’s late.

Mark Corley, chief technology officer at Avanade UK and Ireland, is working on Windows XP migrations for the utility sector. He told The Reg the migration work has been steady but he has not seen a rush. “I thought there would be a tsunami of this 18 months ago,” he told The Reg. “I’d like to think none of my customers are unaware of it, but I’m sure ignorance is still high,” Corley said.

Avanade has moved 100,000 seats in two years, he noted.

“We definitely need to get the word out,” Microsoft's Paulson told us. He reckoned the answer would have been a public service announcement in the mainstream news.

Others reckon only now, with April clearly in sight and no further option to postpone the inevitable, are customers moving. Browsium, a software start-up helping migrate legacy IE apps, told The Reg September has been “intense” following a summer pick-up. Browsium says it’s now working with hundreds of customers at "various stages".

Mark Corley

Corley: the XP migration tsunami didn't hit

Gary Schare, president and COO, said: “No one seems to budget for this sort of migration until they’re almost out of time and it becomes a crisis.”

Still stuck on you

The biggest problem is that Windows XP has become invisible and forgotten about as it’s become a kind of de facto industry standard.

The reason isn’t that Microsoft gave up shipping new versions of Windows to supplant Windows XP, it is that what it offered failed to budge people. Windows Vista was the successor to Windows XP, but was such a dog on performance and compatibility that customers stayed where they were.

Only now is the successor to Windows Vista, Windows 7, really seeing massive adoption momentum. In October 2011, it finally overtook Windows XP in the market-share stakes – but even that was two years after Windows 7 was released.

Exodus...

Those who have clung onto Windows XP have made larger problems for themselves, as now moving is no longer just a simple upgrade. Such is the gap in hardware needed for Windows 7 or Windows 8 that it requires a massive spend on new PCs.

But there’s an even bigger problem: applications – this has had a range of effects on Windows XP migrations, from slowing things down to applying the hand brake.

It’s normal for companies to buy and build apps and macros for Windows on their PCs. What has become a problem in the case of Windows XP is it has been in the market for so long it’s become an industry standard.

Organisations now have so many of their business-critical apps, and therefore their companies' operations, riding the Windows XP train that it’s difficult to know when – or how – to bring the train to a stop without hurting business.

And then here’s the other problem: “business-critical” depends on who you are. It can be some standard desktop app or something you’ve built or it can be in a browser.

It can be complex enterprise applications like Siebel or SAP; or homegrown, line-of-business applications; it can be payroll, HR, manufacturing, CAD and CRM.

Standard apps might be CRM, ERP or design but it really gets complicated if you’ve got Office that you’ll have probably tailored with all sorts of plug-ins and macros for Excel or Word.

If you’re running a browser and you’re on Windows XP there’s also the healthy chance you’ll still be running Windows XP’s default browser – Explorer 6 – or IE 7 and 8 several versions behind the state of the art.

Often big and complex enterprise apps like SAP or Siebel run using IE.

The challenge is knowing which apps to migrate first and then which, if any, to leave behind.

Corley reckons on one app per five people in an organisation – so 1,000 apps at least in a company the size of those 10 pressing Microsoft for paid support next year.

“The more you uncover, the more you have to plan, and then sometimes if there are custom-built applications that tend to be large because they give business and competitive advantage they take the most effort to move across,” Corley said.

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