In five weeks Microsoft will end support for Windows XP. It's about time: At 13 years old, XP is ancient for an operating system. The problem is that a lot of computers are still running XP, and come April those machines will no longer receive security updates. But how many computers can it really be, right? Maybe everyone is just worried about some scraggly legacy tail on the end of the bell curve. Oh, it's 30 percent of total operating system market share worldwide? That's a lot.
Though XP market share has declined since Microsoft announced it would end support (it was at almost 39 percent this time last year according to Net Market Share), it actually reanimated briefly in recent weeks: In January it was at 29.3 percent, and in February it hopped up to 29.53 percent. (Windows 7, which is almost five years old itself, has been hovering around 47 percent lately, whereas Microsoft's latest operating systems, Windows 8 and 8.1, have about 10 percent between them.) Microsoft has been trying to get users to migrate away from XP with tools like "Am I Running XP?" which tells you whether the operating system on the computer you're using is XP and then shows the countdown to the end of XP support.
The explanation for XP's unprecedented longevity has to do with its strength as a product, extremely widespread corporate enterprise adoption, continued adoption during the failed Vista years (2007 to 2009), and enduring appeal compared with Microsoft's newer offerings. Though Windows 7 was pretty much fine, and Windows 8 is actually strong, XP has always seemed rock solid. Technology evolves at such a rapid pace because new capabilities and features are appealing enough to eclipse older innovations. Unless they aren't. The operating systems Microsoft has released since XP clearly haven't been enticing enough to motivate 30 percent of all computer users to switch. But with 33 days to go until support ends, it's time for a mass exodus.
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