With the imminent approach of the end of support of Windows XP (April 2014), questions on many customers’ minds include “can’t we just stay on Windows XP?” or” Can we just pay Microsoft some money to extend my support to mitigate my risks?” Both of these questions have been asked of me in the last two weeks. Having just had sight of the magnitude of costs involved for extending Windows XP support, let’s explore both of those questions and the extended support costs.
The move to Windows 7 or Windows 8 away from Window XP is an emotive decision for many customers. They can often feel forced to migrate and can struggle to identify the material benefit of migration. This is certainly true in terms of pure direct cost savings against the cost of transformation. But fiscal benefit is of course completely separate to improving the experience of users and the material improvements in functionality and supportability which Windows 7 or 8 bring. So are Microsoft unreasonable in wanting to move on and force their customer base to migrate?
Windows XP was released in September 2001 therefore By the time Windows XP becomes end of life (EOL), it will have been a supported product for 12.5 years. Usually Microsoft only support a product for 10 years, and they would argue (with some justification) that they’ve gone the extra mile with Windows XP support already. The main reason Microsoft remove support of a product though is because of the costs involved in having to support so many platforms and retrofit those platforms to accommodate new products and technologies.
Microsoft release new versions of products every 3 years, (a situation caused by EA agreements and software assurance rights) and so for Microsoft to have teams that support so many platforms (currently Windows XP, Vista, 7 & 8) it inevitably becomes commercially unviable. I also wonder (* Car Analogy Klaxon *) how many of us drive cars even 5 years old, never mind 12 years old? Yet we might consider running our business on software and technology that was developed over 10 years ago?
If you’re a customer considering staying on Windows XP, why move? Inevitably, the eco system around Windows XP platforms will close. Your organisation will be forced to change in time. Software vendors (for the same reasons as Microsoft), want to call time on older, legacy versions of their products too. Hardware vendors (and it’s already happening), will not provide drivers and downgrade rights to older versions of operating systems on newer equipment.
All that new equipment you were thinking of buying in the next year or so but downgrading to Windows XP probably won’t be able to run Windows XP. Also, it should considered that whilst it might be possible to sweat an asset for an indefinite period of time, (until it fails) at some point support and maintenance of really old equipment actually starts to cost your business more. Effectively you’ll be paying more for support, to stay still technologically, whilst your competition embrace modern workplace working practices.
So, you’re thinking about taking a custom support agreement (Microsoft jargon for extended support)? Well, if you’re an enterprise organisation, you’re going to be looking at 7 figures minimum per year, (and I’ve seen a customer that’s been offered 3 year extended support for an 8 figure sum). There will be also be additional costs for customers who request hotfixes and security patches as well.
All good things come to an end. Windows XP has served the business world well, but inevitably technology vendors improve and enhance their technologies based on feedback and requirements from their customers.
Whilst it might be possible to put off the inevitable for a short period, the reality is that moving from Windows XP must happen at some point in time. My recommendation to any customer would be start planning to migrate off Windows XP if you haven’t already and consider using that contingency/extended support fund you would have used to stay on Windows XP and get on with the business of migrating. Migrating any volume of users before the EOL date of Windows XP has to be better than none.
…..and finally, if you have to make a change, make it a good one. There are many benefits and opportunities available to your business in moving to a new platform, make sure you understand what they are and communicate them. Show your user community that this change is a positive one for the business.
With the very recent release of Windows 8, many companies that haven’t started moving to Windows 7 already will surely be asking themselves; “should I deploy Windows 7 or Windows 8”? In fact, only this last week I’ve been asked this very question twice by customers. So, assuming you’re not one of the 50% of organisations already committed to Windows 7, what should your organisation consider doing? Which is the right choice and why?
It’s no coincidence that any new version of Windows is ready and available to supply to Microsoft’s OEM channel partners in September of any given year. Christmas will soon be upon us all, and there are presents to be bought, whether for loved ones (or ourselves!) and this gives you a good indication of who Windows 8 is primarily aimed at in this first wave of enablement. In fact, (as warned previously), you’ll no doubt have seen the Windows 8/Surface/Windows 8 phone campaigns begin in earnest, entirely to this end, to sell to home/consumer users. Uptake in consumers drives uptake in business, a lesson that Microsoft learnt a long time ago.
With Windows XP the predominant operating system for the vast majority of the remaining 50% of companies yet to upgrade, and with Windows XP support ceasing in April 2014, that gives these customers around 16 months with which to try and get off the older platform if possible, (of course, some won’t make it in time given their organisations size and plethora of legacy applications). A typical 2000 seat organisation for reference takes around 12 months to plan, design, test, enable and deploy Windows 7; though don’t quote me if you don’t plan and prepare well enough. (You’ve been warned).
Windows 8 clearly brings some very attractive features for enterprise, specifically of interest are the following : –
- quicker boot up, stability and performance of the OS
- Improved security
- The improved search function (which is really excellent)
- Internet Explorer 10
- Longer support lifecycle(remember it’s 10 years from release for any MS product)
- Windows 8 to go – allowing boot from USB drives
- Internal application store for self service applications of your apps
- Touch UI for touch enabled applications (such as Office 2013)
Having used Windows 8 for some time now, (on both touch optimised device, and non-touch optimised device), without doubt, Windows 8 is better with a touch experience. Yes, the Windows Modern UI is excellent, but there are functions and features you still need a keyboard and mouse for to make the experience less irksome. Secondly, there is a learning curve with Windows 8; things aren’t where you’re going to expect them to be or do what you expect them to do sometimes.
As an example when I gave my wife a Windows 8 device initially, she didn’t like the experience at all, yearning for the ways she’s used for as long as she’s used a PC (which is a long time….. ). Other experienced long term users of Windows also report much the same, (me included). With consumer deployment well established in perhaps 12 months’ time you’ll probably not have this problem but if you’re considering going early, you’ve got to consider the learning curve and factor in additional training costs.
Finally (as this is just a blog, not a whitepaper), it’s likely your existing hardware estate of the last few years will support Windows 8 right out of the box, in fact, I doubt you’ll struggle to make it run on equipment of up to 5 years of age, these devices however won’t have touch. The early devices that have touch are going to be great, but will be improved upon, and of course, importantly will come down in price, so again, Windows 8 touch optimised kit will come with a premium on your typical laptop cost of say £500 per device, with many slates likely to be £800 and upwards initially.
Right now, it’s most likely that Windows 7 offers most organisations the best choice for their corporate desktop deployment and Windows 8 for slates, Ultrabooks and touch enabled devices. Windows to go might also offer you some benefit for flexible/home working practices (without the cost of additional hardware supply on the company’s part).
Windows 8 offers some great technology and features, but the added time, complexity of readiness (some features) and costs involved just make it another unnecessary time delay and barrier to deploying a supported and stable platform. For these reasons; unless you have specific scenario that would be of benefit on Windows 8, Windows 7 remains my recommended platform of choice for the vast majority of your business.