If UK health service can get XP extended, why can't we?

Britain's National Health Service is negotiating with Microsoft to extend XP support by at least a year. Can we get in on that?

The U.K. National Health Service has a problem -- actually, 1.086 million problems. According to Gavin Clarke at The Register, that's how many XP computers the NHS has attached to its network in England alone, never mind the rest of the United Kingdom.

With Windows XP support going to the dogs on April 8, unless Microsoft blinks, that's a whole lot of tails wagging in the wind and a lot of sensitive information potentially exposed. If the bad guys can hack 110 million Target customers by sending a phishing message to an HVAC supplier, just imagine how much fun they could have with a doctor's office PC -- or a million of them.

As Gregg Keizer mentioned in Computerworld last August, large organizations that pay for Custom Support licenses (to the tune of $200 per XP PC for the first year, $400 for the next year) will continue to get XP patches for "critical" security holes. Microsoft's making the patches; it's only a question of price.

The Register notes dutifully that a lack of planning has made the NHS situation much worse. But Clarke also recites a familiar refrain:

Factors holding back the NHS include the fact that many critical apps had not been updated to work with Windows XP's successor, Windows 7, until last year. Such apps included the Patient Administration System and Choose and Book, a browser-based app that could only work with the Windows XP browser.

Another factor is the existence of custom apps in HR and patient record systems built for Windows XP that must also be updated for Windows 7. It is likely that many of these have not been updated.

Also adding delay is the fact that NHS IT teams are not just looking after operating systems but large numbers of apps: one NHS trust with 6,000 PCs told us it has whittled 1,300 apps down to 100 as part of its Windows XP migration work to Windows 7.

We won't even talk about Windows 8.

I don't know about you, but I see XP everywhere: banking, health care, education, manufacturing, retail. I discovered yesterday that my son's pre-school relies on an old XP computer to play music for the kids. It works fine: Ain't broke, don't fix. How on earth can I tell them that they need to spend 500 bucks on a new machine -- and hire somebody to train teachers on the new system -- just because Microsoft won't keep their old computer safe?

Microsoft has made billions of dollars from XP. Customers deserve better, even if they don't have a million dead PCs walking.

This story, "If UK health service can get XP extended, why can't we?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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