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Microsoft: Windows XP Costs More Than An Upgrade

Almost half (42 percent) of Windows’ commercial installed base is still running Windows XP, according to new figures from IDC.

IDC published the figures as part of a Microsoft-commissioned whitepaper called “Mitigating Risk: Why Sticking with Windows XP is a Bad Idea”, designed to encourage organisations to dump the older software in favour of Windows 7.

Ousting XP

The research firm projected that while Windows XP usage is declining, it will still control 11 percent of Windows’ commercial installed base by April 2014, when Microsoft plans to stop delivering XP support, including security patches. The estimates cover all Windows deployments other than those on consumers’ systems.

IDC’s research begins a new chapter in Microsoft’s efforts to oust users from Windows XP, emphasising the productivity and IT costs of sticking with the ageing system. Until now Microsoft’s campaign has mainly centred around the April 2014 support cut-off date.

Microsoft is now taking aim at the perception in some organisations that sticking with XP is less expensive than upgrading.

“Many of the companies still running Windows XP contend that it’s a solution that still ‘works’ in their environment,” said Erwin Visser, a senior director for Windows, in a blog post. “’Works’, however, could mean these customers are missing out on the benefits of a more modern operating system including dramatic savings, higher user productivity and a more valued IT department.”

IDC interviewed nine organisations with an average of 3,680 employees using a mix of Windows XP and Windows 7 devices. The whitepaper found that added productivity costs for Windows XP included lost time due to virus or malware attacks, reimaging, rebooting, downtime, and help desk requests, while IT costs included upgrading PCs, security-related activities, deploying applications, patch management and help desk service.

User ‘revolt’

Overall the costs for Windows XP systems added up to $870 (£555) per system per year, compared to $168 for Windows 7 systems, a difference of $702.

Five-year-old Windows XP systems cost $324 in productivity losses and $766 in IT expenditure, IDC said. The analyst firm admitted the higher costs weren’t all directly related to Windows itself, but were “common in older solutions that required IT labour and help desk support activities”.

Besides the monetary costs, there are also psychological effects to consider, IDC said, warning that users tied to older technology could “revolt”.

“IT departments that artificially hold users hostage aboard old technology solutions are setting the stage for a user revolt that could lead to loss of influence by the IT department,” IDC said in the whitepaper.

Windows 8 is set for launch this autumn, but IDC said it sees Windows 7 as the likely candidate for large deployments in the near future. Windows 8 will not make “any impact” on commercial deployments until late 2013 or 2014, while enterprises “qualify and approve” the newer software, IDC said.


“After the release of Windows 8, we expect to see customers exercising downgrade deployment rights with new PCs they acquire that come from OEMs preloaded with Windows 8,” IDC said in the report.

Last July, Microsoft upped the ante in its anti-Windows XP campaign when it began counting down the last 999 days until the XP support cut-off date.

In April of 2011 Microsoft said it had sold more than 350 million Windows 7 licences in the 18 months since the OS’ release.

At that time, analytics firm Net Applications estimated that Windows XP held 54.39 percent of the worldwide operating-system market, followed by Windows 7 with 24.7 percent, Windows Vista with 10.56 percent, and Mac OS X 10.6 with 3.5 percent.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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