Die, XP, Die! Why the Operating System from 2001 Won’t Go Away
Xavier Caballe via Flickr
How can we miss Windows XP if it won’t go away?
Microsoft is finally pushing this operating system out the airlock after years of ongoing support and constant updates. But the long-promised end of updates for XP today has yet to dislodge this 2001-vintage release from a dismayingly high number of computers.
StatCounter put its worldwide market share at 18.6 percent in March—and no, Americans can’t blame backwards foreigners for that, as XP’s share in the U.S. is a full 15 percent. NetMarketShare, using different methods that factor in more computers that rarely go online, found XP on 27.7 percent of computers worldwide.
Good at the time
When Windows XP made its debut on Oct. 25, 2001, personal computing was a different game. We counted storage costs in dollars per gigabyte, not pennies. “Cloud computing” meant hoarding attached documents in a Hotmail or (ahem) Yahoo Mail account. The closest thing to a social network was the buddy list in AOL Instant Messenger.
But even just five years in, XP had aged poorly. Its security had been revealed to be so thoroughly broken that Microsoft had to ship the equivalent of a new version of Windows in the form of the massive Service Pack 2 download.
After another decade of security fixes, XP remains fundamentally insecure. Any one app can have the run of the whole system. It still needs work.
Remember, if your XP box gets hacked and enlisted into a botnet that spams people with viruses, your preference for a vintage OS suddenly becomes everybody’s problem.
But the time is over
Why has this fossilized release stuck around so long? In part, it’s because when Microsoft had its big first chance to ship a compelling sequel to XP, it delivered Vista instead. And then it made the next update, Windows 7, a dicey upgrade from XP.
If you’ve long since repressed those memories, take yourself back: Vista suffered from having the most visible part of its overdue security upgrades be the “User Account Control” are-you-sure? dialog that popped up every time you installed an app—or maybe just looked at the computer the wrong way. Then Microsoft decided to crack down on unauthorized Windows installations—except that its anti-piracy checks locked out law-abiding users too.