After tomorrow, April 8, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or technical support for Windows XP, the most stubbornly successful OS in Microsoft history.
How ancient is XP, which if you believe the latest NetMarketShare numbers, still runs on more than a quarter of PCs worldwide?
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When XP was released, the world was still in shock from 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan had just begun. Steve Jobs had released the first iPod two days before Oct. 25, 2001, the offical XP rollout date. Jennifer Lopez was at the top of the charts and made the unfortunate decision to star in "Gigli." Gas cost $1.50 a gallon.
XP immediately eclipsed the weirdly unstable Windows ME, wrapping Windows 2000's rock-solid NT core in a pretty UI and new multimedia features. It felt solid. It looked good. Most people were happy with Windows 98, though, so XP took a while to take hold. But it when it did, it hung on like a raptor.
The Vista faceplant
Windows XP was without a successor for five years, the longest gap ever between Windows versions. The Windows Vista disaster that followed is now the stuff of legend. Throughout its ignominious existence, Vista never cracked a 20 percent market share.
From the beginning the signs were not good. Shortly before Vista launched, I sat at a bar with a colleague, laughing over the fact there were supposedly 10 different way to shut down Vista. A woman sitting next to us piped up, "Well, when a company has lost its way, you have to release something."
We slowly turned to look at her. She said she worked for Microsoft and refused to say much more, other than: "We got complacent, then a deadline was given, and it became a scramble to get something out," and "Do you know what it looks like to test 500 printers for compatibility?" When I asked if she was willing to be identified -- maybe just by first name? -- she replied, "Fred."
The initial complaint about Vista was that promised features -- such as WinFS, an ambitious new file system -- had been dumped by the wayside. As the successor to XP, Vista seemed to offer little more than a slightly sweeter UI.
Then the user complaints began pouring in. Chief among them was that UAC (User Access Control) drove users crazy by constantly popping up confirmation challenges. Features were moved or buried without rhyme or reason, and some older Windows apps wouldn't run. Most of all, users complained of poor performance, even on systems that came with Vista pre-installed.
InfoWorld's Save XP campaign
To move customers to Vista, Microsoft originally said it would force PC makers to stop selling machines with XP preinstalled after Jan. 30, 2008 -- little more than a year after Vista launched instead of the usual two-year grace period between versions. In September 2007, Microsoft extended that deadline five months to June 30, 2008. Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Windows product management, said, "There are some customers who need a little more time to make the switch to Windows Vista."
You might call that an understatement. Sensing a rebellion brewing, in January 2008, InfoWorld executive editor Galen Gruman came up with the idea for our Save XP user advocacy campaign, an online petition to convince Microsoft to give users a choice and continue to keep XP alive. Within three weeks, 75,000 people had signed the petition. Analysts at Gartner and the Burton Group chimed in, suggesting that Microsoft continue to make XP available until 2009.