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Microsoft, instead of turning the lights off on XP, make it open source

Backspin By , Network World
April 12, 2012 02:24 PM ET

Network World - To state the obvious, Microsoft is hugely important economically and culturally, and as Peter Parker (AKA Spiderman) was told by his grandfather: "With great power comes great responsibility." (Actually Voltaire said it first but he said it in French so that doesn't count.)

Part of Microsoft's great responsibility is supporting the products it sells, but that responsibility apparently has limits. When Microsoft initially releases a product it has "Mainstream Support," meaning it gets free security updates, performance and stability improvements, bug fixes, and, if you're very, very lucky, the company might even cough up a new feature or two.

Once Microsoft has had enough of the product (by which I mean it has a successor in the market that is sucking up all the cash, making the old version uninteresting in commercial terms) it gets "Extended Support" which only includes security updates (unless you are a huge enterprise with a zonking great paid-for Microsoft support contract in which case your product problems will get a lot more attention).

Related: End of Windows XP support era signals beginning of security nightmare 

On April 9 Microsoft announced the immediate demise of Mainstream Support for Office 2007 and, on the 10th, the same fate befell Windows Vista. The company then, for reasons that aren't clear, flip-flopped on Office 2007 and pushed out the support death sentence until October. So, for the Extended Support period, all of these products will be gasping for breath with only the most pressing security issues getting any kind of fix.

What happens after that? Ahh, that is "a good question." For example, two years from April 9 all support for Windows XP and Office 2003 will cease, leaving anyone still running these products with significant potential functional and security exposure.

"So?" some of you may well be muttering "Windows XP was released in 2001 and Office 2003 in, well, 2003. Who would want to be running those dinosaurs now that we have nice, new shiny Windows 7 and Office 2010 and the even shiner new Windows 8 and Office 2012 on the horizon! I can hardly wait to get my hands on those bad boys."

First, I'd have to respond with the suggestion that you need to get a more rounded life ... maybe get out and walk a bit. Second, these are tough times and not everyone can afford to upgrade their hardware and shoulder the manpower costs of getting the new hotness up and running, say nothing of training the staff.

Third, there are plenty of organizations out there with what may seem to you to be seriously antiquated systems that, in fact, still do a perfectly good job. They have smaller disk drives as well as slower processors and less memory so they are, in comparison to your power-sucking mongo desktops, feeding from the electrical sippy-cup. Not only that but their cost was fully amortized years ago and there aren't a ton of surprises in keeping them up and running.

In contrast, there you are with all of those new, sexy viruses you fight with monotonous regularity which are mostly a non-issue to the users of the dinosaurs. Moreover, these old skool users can get the job done without having to learn whatever brand new user interface nightmare Microsoft now thinks is the light, the truth and the way.

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