Windows XP and the Changing Calculus of Technology Choice

jzemlin's picture

One reason technology choices are so difficult is technology is always a work in progress; your one choice has lasting consequences since the technology rarely ever lives on its own, and most good technology is never done -- that is unless you’re Windows XP. As most of us know, Microsoft today is turning off support for Windows XP. That means that roughly 30 percent of all Windows users will cease to get security updates and other ongoing maintenance. Since hackers disproportionately target Windows products, this is a big deal.

So, if you’re a banking technology manager who made the decision to deploy Windows XP to your fleet of ATMs back in 2002 (which at the time seemed like a very safe choice), you and your employer are now in serious trouble. Just upgrade to Windows 8, right? What’s the big deal? Well, most older hardware will not run Windows 8. It’s widely seen as a resource hog. Many perfectly fine computers became “Vista orphans” and now will be junked or forced to migrate to another non-Microsoft OS.

This is where Linux comes in. Linux on the desktop historically has been a small percentage of the total market; it’s struggled to meet the needs of most everyday users, either through market perceptions or interoperability reality. Only with the rise of mobile and cloud computing has the calculus of desktop choice started changing. First Google based its wildly popular Android and Chrome OSes on Linux. At the same time, users have gotten used to relying on the cloud rather than native apps for most of what they do with a computer. Internet access and cloud computing power (and the application frameworks that deploy apps within a browser) have become so good so fast that people aren’t as locked into the same Windows dominance.

The XP end-of-life will likely push even more people into other platforms, especially if they want to continue using their old equipment. A Linux distribution like Mint or Ubuntu is perfectly well suited for older equipment and has the tools needed for migration. Will all your Windows apps run on Linux? Not really (at least not without more advanced technical tricks), but really just how many native apps do people run anymore? As we said earlier, not many. Chromebooks would not be seeing the sales numbers it is achieving if native apps were an issue.

This doesn’t mean that every XP user will go to Linux; far from it. Yet the end-of-life of XP will force many users to evaluate their options with a fresh set of decision criteria. With Chromeboks, Mint, Ubuntu and the thriving and growing community of Linux developers, it doesn’t seem so crazy to go to Linux. Technology is never complete, so why not trust the community of thousands of developers vs. only one company who has the power to decide when you’re ready for an upgrade?