One tactic everyone can use, including consumers, is to switch browsers when XP falls off the support list. "IE8 won't be supported [after April 2014] on Windows XP," Silver noted.
Because Microsoft has refused to support IE9 or the even newer IE10 on XP, when IE8 support ends, XP users will have to dump the latter to run a secured browser. It's likely that other browser makers -- Google and Mozilla in particular -- will continue to support their Chrome and Firefox on XP up to and well past the 2014 cut-off. Mozilla, for example, dropped support for Apple's OS X Leopard, an OS that Apple itself abandoned in June 2011, only this month.
Also off the support list when XP retires: 2001's IE6 and 2006's IE7. Gartner has that covered on its list as well, suggesting that enterprises who worry about in-house or third-party Web applications written for IE6 and IE7 move to Windows 7 -- where those browsers are not allowed -- but turn to a third-party product that lets customers run the creaky browsers on the newer OS. One that fits Gartner's bill is Browsium's Ion, the follow-on to the company's earlier Unibrows, or the same firm's just-released Catalyst, a browser management tool.
Silver was doubtful that Microsoft would ever repeat the longevity of Windows XP, if only because it's under pressure to pick up the OS release pace, which would make it much less likely that any single edition of Windows would gain the 85 percent-and-up share that XP accumulated in its salad days of 2006.
"We do think Microsoft will pick up the pace, at least for the next release," Silver said. "We think that will be a 'polishing' release, and come within about two years. It will smooth out all the rough edges of Windows 8. That's when we think a lot of folks will move [from Windows 7]."
Forrester has the same future in mind for Microsoft. On Monday, a colleague of Johnson's, Frank Gillett, predicted the Redmond, Wash. developer will shift to a schedule that, if not annual, will certainly be brisker than the every-three-years its used since 2006. "In the face of Apple and Google, they have to figure out how to release Windows faster than every three years," Gillett said Tuesday.
Somewhere, XP is laughing.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about Windows in Computerworld's Windows Topic Center.