Q: I’m one of the Microsoft customers who opted not to “upgrade” to Vista. I don’t think I’m a dinosaur; I just have more important things to do than learn new software—especially when good, old reliable XP suits me just fine. So I’m hoping to stick with XP and Office 2003 as long as I can. But I wonder—no, I worry—how much longer can I continue to use it? What will happen when Microsoft discontinues support for XP? Another way of looking at it is: When does my loyalty and love of XP turn into an expensive stubbornness?
A: Many readers share your frustration and are asking similar questions. Microsoft has officially ended what it calls “mainstream” support for XP and moved into the “extended” phase, which means it will continue security updates and bug fixes via Windows Updates, but customers will need an extended support contract with Microsoft or one of its channel partners to address any issues not related to security. The “extended” period is scheduled to end in April 2014, but if Microsoft’s history of product support is any indication of what it will do in the future, those deadlines could be stretched.
The critical question that will surely affect Microsoft’s extended-support decision will be how well its new operating system, Windows 7, is received, particularly by business users. Microsoft announced in May that it plans to release Windows 7 in time for this year’s holiday shopping season. Considering the state of the economy, it’s a good bet that few businesses or individual users will be anxious to pay for an upgrade. Ironically, a poor reception for the new software may bode well for the likelihood that Microsoft will stretch XP support so as not to abandon its customers.
The beta version of Windows 7, although cleaner and skinnier, looks and feels very much like Vista, which means the learning curve from XP will remain a challenge.
So, if your present system is working well, it appears you have at least five years to figure out your next steps, and who knows, maybe a son of XP will emerge from all this.