Like all good things, Windows XP is coming to an end. Staples, the office supply and business services provider, is helping small companies come to grips with the potentially disruptive change.
On April 8, 2014, Microsoft closes the book on the Windows XP era after more than 12 years on the job. The software giant will cut off support, ending the crucial practice of issuing security updates in a move may prove potentially dangerous for small businesses that rely on the operating system.
Usually, as tech retires, there's little to no fanfare. Windows XP is the exception, because despite numerous updates (Windows Vista, 7, 8 and Windows 8.1) and a dozen intervening years, it remains very popular. According to the latest figures from Web analytics firm Net Applications, Windows XP clung to nearly 28 percent of the desktop operating system market, second to only Windows 7 with more that 48 percent.
A Post-Windows XP Apocalypse?
While not quite rising to the level of an official apocalypse, the end of Windows XP does mean that small business owners face significant problems and risk if they don’t upgrade to a newer operating system. Conor Kearney, vice president and general merchandise manager for technology at Staples, said that small business owners face an uncertain future sticking with Windows XP beyond April 8.
"What security issues will they face?," he wondered, as Microsoft's security team turns its attention away from XP and malware coders pick apart the aging operating system.
He urges small business owners to also consider the software compatibility problems that can arise as software makers embrace more modern operating systems and the cloud—developments that leave Windows XP in their rearview mirror. What's more, XP holdouts flirt with extended downtime as they discover that their technical support options have dried up.
Moving Past Windows XP
Staples aims to take some of those concerns off the table with a few programs designed to smooth the transition to new, more capable PCs and devices. In addition to money-saving computer offers, Staples offers a free, in-store data transfer service until May 3.
Customers can "bring in their XP computers and we'll transition it," said Kearney. Staples has also invested in training its staffers. They can help Staples Advantage members make the move to modern, productivity-enhancing PCs, notebooks and tablets, as quickly and cost-effectively as possible with an assessment service, he said.
And customers will want to take his company up on the offer, said Kearney, because Windows XP isn't the only thing running on borrowed time.
"Listen, your machine's getting older," said Kearney. The newest Windows XP systems are "five-plus years old, and those machines are starting to break down." Their warrantees ran out long ago, and good luck trying to get support from PC vendors who have abandoned the operating system.
Even with age-defying hardware, systems designed for Windows XP simply can't compete with newer offerings, even those with modest configurations. "The new machines are so much faster," said Kearney. "Your productivity today is more important than ever," he added. Today's fast, mobile-enabled and cloud-aware devices can help small businesses move at a more agile pace.
Business owners needn't be wary of upgrading, said Kearney. If customers aren't ready for Windows 8 with its new, touch-friendly interface, Staples will help them transition to Windows 7. Microsoft still supports the operating system, and it's capable of running a good amount of XP software, allowing businesses to take a cautious approach to modernizing their Windows environments.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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