Backlash slaps Microsoft's 'help-a-friend-dump-XP' plea

Give us Windows 7 and we'll think about it, say customers, who reject the idea of helping others migrate to Windows 8.1

Microsoft's appeal to its technically-advanced customers to help friends and family ditch Windows XP didn't quite work out like the company had hoped.

Microsoft's appeal to its technically-advanced customers to help friends and family ditch Windows XP did not quite work out like the company had hoped.

Rather than jump to assist people they knew who still ran the soon-to-be-retired XP, users blasted the plea in comments appended to Microsoft's Friday entreaty.

"Ummm...how about NO? Is the word 'NO' in Microsoft's vocabulary?" asked Steve Chabot in one of those comments posted Sunday. "I will not advocate upgrades that require people to relearn the basics of a user interface or replace perfectly good hardware simply for the privilege of running an overblown phone OS."

On Friday, Microsoft asked its technically astute customers to help others migrate from Windows XP, but mentioned only Windows 8.1 as a solution. "We need your help spreading the word to ensure people are safe and secure on modern up-to-date PCs," wrote Brandon LeBlanc, a Microsoft marketing communications manager, in a blog post.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD What is the price of not upgrading Windows XP? +

LeBlanc suggested readers assist others in either upgrading their current Windows XP personal computer to Windows 8.1 -- assuming the hardware is up to snuff -- or help them pick out a new PC to replace their aged machine.

That riled users, many of whom cited their financial straits, saying that they had neither the money for a $120 copy of Windows 8.1 much less hundreds more for a new computer. Business owners chimed in too, noting that their businesses rely on software that only run on XP or arguing that to purchase new PCs would be foolish for their bottom lines when their current computers work fine.

LeBlanc's pitch stemmed from the impending support cut-off for Windows XP. After nearly 13 years, Microsoft will provide the last public security updates for XP on April 8. After that date, Microsoft and outside security experts have predicted, those XP-powered PCs will be in the crosshairs of cyber criminals.

Others blasted LeBlanc for writing what they viewed as an advertisement for Windows 8.1. "Honestly, this sounds more like a sales pitch for Windows 8.1 than any kind of interest in what is actually best for my friends and family," said Naru in a Saturday comment. "Had the article actually mentioned both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 as options, I would be able to take it more seriously."

Microsoft has pulled Windows 7 from its own online and retail stores, and stopped selling it to retailers last October. Still, most retailers have stocked up on Windows 7, and continue to move the 2009 OS at prices between $90 and $100.

Nor has the company offered XP owners a discount on Windows 8.1 to tempt them into dumping the ancient OS.

Although the comments added to LeBlanc's blog -- and the hundreds posted to a story Computerworld published last Friday -- included a handful praising Windows 8 and 8.1, with the usual Linux fans touting the open-source OS as an alternative, most objected to the new two-headed Windows 8/8.1, which features both a traditional desktop and a new tile-based, touch-first "Metro" user interface (UI), as a replacement for XP.

"Help my family and friends get on to Windows 8.1? I wouldn't curse my worst enemy with your Windows 8.x OS," contended Dhev in a comment to LeBlanc.

And calls continued for Microsoft to reopen sales of Windows 7 and then discount the OS. "If a sub-$100 upgrade path to even Windows 7 Starter edition was available (it even ran on low-end 1GB netbooks), it would be much easier to encourage non-technical users to migrate," contended secristr, a reader of LeBlanc's blog. "Please try to help us by giving us another option besides Windows 8.1."

Windows 7 Starter was a crippled-by-design edition that Microsoft offered to computer makers then building netbooks -- small, lightweight and underpowered laptop computers. The company never sold Windows 7 Starter to users, however.

Some users noted the irony in LeBlanc's pitch, which was aimed at people who provide ad hoc Windows technical to friends and family members.

"Problem is, these are the very people telling [those friends and family] not to move to [Windows] 8, and helping them move to [Windows] 7 instead," said Paul68 in a comment to Friday's Computerworld story.

LeBlanc said he read every comment, and replied to a few, but did not touch on the underlying theme, that Windows 8.1 is a poor replacement for Windows XP and that Windows 7 would be a better fit for the stragglers still running the operating system.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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This story, "Backlash slaps Microsoft's 'help-a-friend-dump-XP' plea" was originally published by Computerworld .

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