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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.

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