The End Is Near for Windows XP

By David H. Ringstrom

Despite three subsequent Windows releases, Windows XP remains the second most popular operating system version. This cycle started when users eschewed Windows Vista, even though Microsoft redeemed itself with Windows 7. In turn, Microsoft again alienated its customers with major user interface changes in Windows 8. Regardless, the 38 percent of computer users currently relying on Windows XP will soon need to move to a modern operating system, or risk exposure to malware.

Many users are holding on to Windows XP due to the incomprehensible changes Microsoft made in Windows 8 [1]. The technology rumor mills abound with chatter that the next version of Windows, apparently code named “Windows Blue,” will appear later this year and possibly resurrect the start button and traditional desktop that users hold dear. The latest word on the street is that this will be a free upgrade for existing Windows 8 users.

Further, personal computer sales have fallen by 14 percent as of late, which could be attributed to market push back on Windows 8. Many technology writers are making hay with this, proclaiming that we're entering a post-PC world. Others observe that PCs are becoming like microwave ovens. Most of us have a microwave oven in our house, which we only replace when it eventually wears out. While many tasks and information consumption is migrating to mobile platforms, there will always be a significant set of tasks that are best performed on a PC, particularly for accountants.

Regardless, Microsoft will end all support for Windows XP as of April 2014. This means that no technical support or new software patches will be available. A cadre of motivated individuals continuously seeks out vulnerabilities in Windows, which Microsoft subsequently closes with software patches. However, no Windows XP patches will be forthcoming after April 2014, which could mean open season for malware purveyors. But, even if Microsoft keeps its word and drops support for Windows XP, third-party antivirus and anti-malware sellers will continue to offer some level of protection for Windows XP users.

Although there are practical reasons to end support for Windows XP, Microsoft has a revenue incentive as well. Just like any other business, software companies need an ongoing stream of revenue. Accounting software vendors such as Intuit and Sage typically support their three most recent versions, which ensures periodic upgrades from their user interface. Indeed, Sage recently narrowed the cycle further by in effect requiring annual software upgrades from payroll service users. Operating systems are a bit different, though, as evidenced by so many computer users still booting up Windows XP computers. Personally, I'm still coaxing an aging Windows XP computer along on one of my desks, but waning support for XP offers yet another reminder that it's time to pasture my old workhorse.

A previous version of this article first appeared on .
About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at  or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link