Microsoft dropping support for Windows XP and Office 2003

As reported by Ars Technica, April 8th 2013 marked the one-year countdown from when Microsoft will cease support for the Windows XP operating system (OS) and Office 2003 products.

On April 9th 2014, security updates and bug fixes automatically issued by Microsoft will cease—and without the safety net this provides, both products will quickly transform into a critical IT security problem. Additionally, bugs encountered using Windows XP and Office 2003 will no longer be addressed by Microsoft, and will instead simply remain unfixed. For example, this could include problems installing Windows XP on newer computers, or certain features of Office 2003 not working as intended.

For businesses, continuing to use Windows XP past Q1 2014 will likely result in severe disruption due to malware and viruses. Businesses will experience incompatibility issues when attempting to use the products on newer computers, and sharing Office 2003 documents amongst staff and customers will result in frustration when the file formats cannot be used.

According to the study referenced in the above article, 38 percent of all worldwide internet-connected users are still running Windows XP; when looking at the global market share of Windows, this undoubtedly includes thousands of businesses.

Microsoft is pushing businesses towards Windows 8 as a replacement for Windows XP. Microsoft typically uses heavy amounts of enticing marketing—claiming decreased costs, new features, and heightened security. However, business owners should understand that moving from Windows XP to Windows 8 is a significant, non-trivial change. It's as disruptive as moving to an entirely different, non-Windows OS. And contrary to Microsoft marketing material, the cost and flexibility advantages are far from clear-cut.

The number one hurdle employees face switching to Windows 8 is Microsoft's radical new user interface. The familiar point-and-click paradigm of Windows XP is gone, replaced by a new model based around touchscreen technology. While this makes sense for tablets and smartphones, it's a serious drawback on desktop and laptop computers in actual real-world business use scenarios. This is reflected in the lukewarm market reception Windows 8 has received, and associated poor reviews in the industry press. Similarly, the new user interface introduced in later versions of Office will come as a shock to those staff with years of experience using Office 2003. Even with professional support and training, it can take a lengthy period of time for your business to adapt to these new user interfaces. A certain amount of disruption and downtime is inevitable.

For Windows 8 and Office 2013, Microsoft's licensing restrictions are as stringent and non-flexible as ever. Generally, both products are licensed for one user on one device only. If an employee wants to install the software on more than one computer, then additional licenses must be purchased. This can cost thousands of dollars—even for small businesses. And, business owners still have to deal with the constant and severe risk of unlicensed software use.

Windows 8 and Office 2013 both retain Microsoft's draconian product activation schemes. When product activation misbehaves or malfunctions, you can be left stranded with an expensive office suite or OS containing only a fraction of the expected functionality you originally paid for.

Taking into consideration these drawbacks, business owners still using Windows XP and Office 2003 may want to re-assess their use of the Microsoft platform and investigate migrating to alternatives. With one year of support remaining for these older products, now is an ideal time to start looking at options.

As we have highlighted above, moving from Windows XP to Windows 8 is practically identical to moving to a completely different OS. With this being the case, business owners can look at the advantages of switching to a non-Windows OS—such as Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is a professional-grade OS equivalent to Windows 8. Virtually any common office task staff would perform using Windows is supported on Ubuntu—with equivalent or better performance, security, and stability. And unlike Windows, Ubuntu is free to install and use on as many computers as you like. There are no licensing restrictions, and no product activation hoops to jump through.

For businesses looking at alternatives to Office 2003, LibreOffice is one of the most highly regarded business office software products available, and is equivalent to the Microsoft Office. For each application in the standard Microsoft Office bundle, there is an equivalent application available in LibreOffice. Like Ubuntu—and unlike Microsoft Office—LibreOffice is free to install and use on as many computers as you like. Even for small businesses, the license cost savings can be thousands of dollars.

Apertura Designs offers professional support and training for both Ubuntu and LibreOffice. We can help you with a smooth migration plan from Windows XP and Office 2003, enabling true future-proofed software flexibility and massive cost savings for your business—without the constraints of software vendor lock-in.

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