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Bitter end: XP users grudgingly give way to Win 7

Is anyone else amazed at how long Microsoft’s Windows XP has hung in there as the OS of choice on the desktop? Users -- and a good many government agencies -- stubbornly clung to XP for years beyond its planned lifespan, ignoring Vista all together and shunning Windows 7.

I know because I was one of them, only grudgingly upgrading my gaming machine at home because I wanted access to the latest Direct X textures, which Microsoft smartly (read: frustratingly, for me) kept away from XP.

Even the pending end-of-service date of April 2014 didn’t push too many people over the fence, an amazing accomplishment given that XP is over 10 years old. Microsoft even had to push the end-of-support date back several times, though I think this is the final one.


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Good old XP was like a rock, stable and unchanging, and people didn’t want to let go of it to drift into the flashy waters of Vista and Windows 7. For me, XP was intuitive. Making small changes to things like the screen saver made sense. Making large changes like updating drivers was similarly easy. I don’t even think anyone taught me how to use it. It was easy to figure out.

In the end, it just plain worked, which for a program whose primary job is helping users run other software, is a pretty good advantage.

But the times, they are a-changin’. Net Applications has released data showing that, for the first time, Windows 7 is more popular than XP -- although Win 7 took the lead in the United States some time ago.

The margin globally is razor thin, with Windows 7 gaining 42.76 percent of users and XP holding onto 42.54 percent. But in the United States, Win 7 holds 49 percent to XP’s 23 percent. Still, that 23 percent stake represents a lot of users who have held onto an OS despite two new versions of it coming out.

Desktop Operating System Share in the US, August 2012

Those numbers should slowly increase for Win 7, though XP could briefly become No. 1 globally again in October when Windows 8 is released, if Windows 7 users upgrade and XPers hold firm.

In the October issue of GCN, I will be reviewing Windows 8, with a keen eye towards features geared for government. I’ll also make a decision on whether the new OS is ready for government service. One positive factor in its favor is that Microsoft is going to sell it for a very good price, under $50 if you are upgrading from an existing version of Windows (XP, Vista or 7), so costs should not be a factor.

It will come down to Windows 8’s ability to capture the magic of XP while avoiding the pitfalls of Vista.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

Reader Comments

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 Bob

As for me, the main reason why I am still on with XP is the difficult bridge between it and Win7. Reformatting the hard disk to upgrade to Win7 from XP is why many are still keeping their XP. I think if Win8 provides a simple cross over from Xp many like me will join the early que.

Fri, Sep 7, 2012

Lots of PCs out there not connected to IP universe, that will be running XP for another decade. There are as many PCs outside the enterprise world as in, and as many people without broadband access as with. As long as it keeps working, for people on a budget, and with dialup or slow DSL, OS upgrades only occur when machine is replaced. For a home user without kids, a PC can last a decade.

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 B_Coffee

I have been stuck with XP way to long as a government user. Personnally, I do not believe the cost arguement at all. XP is not stable, has memory limitations, make distributed folder sharing very difficult, and has a poor network stack. I administer my children's school network and moved to Windows 7 almost immediately after it was out. Administration of Win7 was so much easier with a massive improvement in security. The reduced cost of administering Win7 more than covered the cost of the upgrade.

Wed, Sep 5, 2012 JohnA Northern Virginia

If Microsoft wanted XP users to upgrade to Windows 7, they would have made it easy to do so. Doing a clean install and upgrading/reinstalling all applications manually may work for simple systems with few applications... for more advanced systems, the barrier is too much, especially for the technically non-savy person to attempt this. Vista is better because there was an upgrade path set out by Microsoft and not suprisingly, the numbers reflect this. This was all by Microsoft's design, so I'm always amazed why folks think this is newsworthy or unexpected...

Wed, Sep 5, 2012

In the past alternate versions of windows were dogs. If that holds up Windows 8 doesn't sound promising. I didn't hear much good about Vista. Windows 7 on the otherhand was reported to be better than XP in most ways just not enough better that I could easily justify paying well over $100 to upgrade.

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