It’s been in the pipeline for years but it is worth a reminder that all Microsoft support for Windows XP and Office 2003 will end on April 8, 2014. Just one year to go – the countdown clock is ticking!
What Does End Of Support Mean? The end of support for these products means they will receive no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates. Although XP and Office 2003 will continue to work, the lack of future security updates should be of real concern – both of these venerable products still require regular monthly security patches as part of the Windows Update cycle.
XP in particular is inherently less secure than the more modern Windows 7 and 8 but, once these updates stop, XP computers will become even more vulnerable to the latest security threats.
Even if users are prepared to accept these increased security risks, there is also the likelihood that vendors will take this end of support date as an opportunity to cease provision of XP-compatible software and drivers. For example, if you buy a new printer next Summer you may find that it doesn’t support XP – the same could apply to the latest version of programs such as antivirus suites and graphics editors.
Mitigating Factors – Of course if an XP computer is never connected to the internet (and does not share files with other computers e.g. via a USB flash drive) then the security risks are minimized – but very few computers nowadays are used solely offline.
The end of support for Office 2003 is arguably less important than for the operating system itself as most home users only use Word, Excel and Powerpoint – not the Outlook business email management product which, by definition, requires copious internet use. As long as users only create their own documents, and do not open any sent to them, the security risks would be much decreased.
How Many People Might Be Affected? The latest figures from NetMarketShare for March 2013 reveal that over 38% of PCs still use Windows XP, compared to about 45% for Windows 7, 5% for Vista and just 3% for Windows 8:
38% represents hundreds of millions of computers around the world. Even more worrying is that in May 2012 XP had a market share of just over 44% – so it has only lost 6% in the last year. If that decline in numbers is not dramatically increased there may still be hundreds of millions of insecure XP machines connected worldwide next year…
Call To Action? Doubtless millions of home users will happily keep their old XP and Office 2003 computers running long after next year’s deadline, regardless of any security and compatibility implications. We can call them the “if it ain’t broke” brigade – and no amount of tech talk is going to change their mind…
Other users may put off the decision until the last minute and upgrade nearer the time – a seemingly sensible investment decision to get the most possible value out of old (but costly at the time) PCs and software.
However, there are a couple of cautionary points to note for those planning to upgrade in a year’s time – you may not have the same choice as now, both for Windows and for Office:
Windows Choice – upgrade to a new computer today and you still have the choice of Windows 8 or Windows 7. As an example, Newegg’s current catalog includes 197 W8 desktops and 108 W7 Home Premium desktops (plus another 267 with W7 Pro).
W8 is only 6 months old so its predecessor W7 is still heavily represented in the marketplace. However, if the past history of Windows is anything to go by, the proportion of Windows 7 PCs for sale will plummet – by this time next year it may be difficult to find mainstream consumer PCs with Windows 7 as an option. That will not matter if you want Windows 8 anyway but, for many people, a widespread choice of Windows 7 computers (with a UI more similar to their existing XP) would be more welcome.
Office Choice – the situation is similar as supplies of Office 2010 are being phased out in favor of the new Office 2013 and Office 365. In a year’s time Office 2010 may simply not be an option on the shelves – the DVD installation version is already in very short supply as those in the know buy up stocks…
Again, whilst this potential lack of choice will not matter to those who prefer Office 2013 or 365 anyway, there are many reasons why the choice of Office 2010 could make greater financial sense.
As an example, the popular Office 2010 Home and Student retail DVD is typically available for $150 and can be installed on three computers whereas the newer Office 2013 Home and Student is typically $140 but can only be installed on one computer – failure to act now may cost you a lot more in the long run…