In an InfoWorld comment thread this week, someone pointed out that Windows XP is as old as Mac OS X 10.1 Puma, which no one has run for years, and asked why people expect Microsoft to support XP with updates and patches when Apple doesn't support any OS X version from before 2009. It's because Apple has very successfully made user interface changes incrementally, so upgrading to the next OS X is not a shock to the system. Users do it, and happily. The percentage of pre-2009 OS X users is similar to the percentage of pre-2001 Windows users: negligible.
In the Mac world, if there's pain to be had, it's when Apple decides to orphan old technology by no longer supporting it in new versions, as it did when it dropped AppleTalk networking support and Classic (pre-OS X) app support in OS X Leopard, PowerPC chip support in OS X Snow Leopard, PowerPC app support in OS X Lion, and RSS support in OS X Mountain Lion. That forces people to buy a new Mac or stick with an old OS, though Apple usually supports dicontinued technologies for four years in OS X upgrades before cutting them out completely. By contrast, Microsoft rarely discontinues old technology, though it occasionally requires new technology to achieve Windows certification, as it will do with the Trusted Platform Module as of January 2015.
The big split, if you can call it that, in the OS X world today involves 2009's OS X Snow Leopard (19 percent), 2011's Lion (16 percent), 2012's Mountain Lion (22 percent), and 2013's Mavericks (37 percent) -- four OSes based on the same core, with very similar operational user interfaces. Their differences are mainly around Apple services such as iCloud, and of course, most pre-2008 Macs can't run Lion or later.
But in Windows, there's a truly big split among 2001's XP (30 percent), 2007's Vista (an understandably tiny user base of 4 percent), 2009's Windows 7 (47 percent), and 2012's Windows 8 (11 percent), each of which has major differences not just in functionality but in user experience and operational UI. Ironically, you can run any of these OSes on most PCs built in the last decade, so most Windows XP PCs could run a more recent version of Windows, even though memory capacity and processor speeds may make you regret running the newer Windows versions on really old PCs. As a result, PC makers have tried to invent reasons such as touchscreens to get people to trade up their hardware.
The bottom line is that 59 percent of Mac users run an OS X version from 2012 or later, whereas just 11 percent of Windows users do. That's what Microsoft and its PC partners are desperate to change. The problem is that the resistance is to the new Windows itself, and threats and scare tactics don't change that fact.
As I said, I personally would urge XP users to switch to Windows 7 (find an old disc on eBay or local computer store) or OS X. But I understand why so many won't or can't. The truth is they don't actually have to -- certainly not on April 8.
This article, "Don't believe the lies about Windows XP's imminent death," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.