Windows XP is still going strong in netbooks and as an alternative for some pre-built PCs, but make no mistake: it's reaching the end of the line. Today, as scheduled, Microsoft has ended the mainstream support phase for the nearly eight-year-old operating system.
What does that mean? In a nutshell, it looks like Microsoft will stop releasing non-security-related hot fixes and providing free support directly to Windows XP users. Here's a handy table (nabbed from Microsoft's support lifecycle policy page) that puts things in perspective:
|Support provided||Mainstream support
|Paid support (per-incident, per hour, and others)||x||x|
|Security update support||x||x|
|Non-security hotfix support||x||Requires extended hotfix agreement, purchased within 90 days of mainstream support ending.|
|No-charge incident support||x|
|Design changes and feature requests||x|
|Product-specific information that is available by using the online Microsoft Knowledge Base||x||x|
|Product-specific information that is available by using the Support site at Microsoft Help and Support to find answers to technical questions||x||x|
The extended support phase is scheduled to last until April 8, 2014, which should give enterprise users and the like plenty of time to upgrade. According to a study we saw yesterday, though, a decent number of firms may take until then—or shortly before—to upgrade to Windows 7.
This change puts Microsoft in a strange position: it's officially backing off support for an operating system that, apparently, the majority of Windows users are still hanging onto. The latest Net Applications figures suggest that Windows XP had a 62.9% worldwide market share last month, while Windows Vista was still way behind with a usage share of just 23.4%.