Windows XP holdouts explain why they haven't upgraded

They're not lazy or uninformed - many Windows XP users can't upgrade for reasons that Microsoft can't address.

OK, Armageddon has passed, and I was wrong. April 9 was not the new Y2K bug. In this case, I'm glad I was wrong. However, Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows XP (and Office 2003, we often forget that) and a lot of people are still using it.

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Microsoft sure tried to incentivize people to move, with things like a $100 discount off a Surface Pro 2 or PC purchase and a $50 discount to purchase Windows 8. How much of a dent these efforts made is debatable; I've yet to see any figures from Microsoft on how many people took up their offer. My guess is few.

I have come across XP quite a few times in my day-to-day activity, so I asked those folks why they are sticking with it. One thing is abundantly clear: in the case of business users, they are sticking with XP out of necessity or an inability to move, not because they are lazy, lackadaisical, or unconcerned.

Denny's POS systems – The wait staff didn't know, and that’s not too surprising. But they also are not at risk. They are using Windows Embedded POSReady 2009, which is essentially XP SP3 with a few tweaks for point-of-sale systems that Microsoft will support until 2019. Microsoft has since replaced it with Windows POSReady 7, built on the Windows 7 code base.

Third-party ATM, gas station – I've written about ATMs being at risk due to their reliance on Windows XP. Well, I've since learned that bank ATMs that use touch screens are running Windows 7, because XP couldn't support touch screen. So I'm OK with my bank's ATMs. It's the third-party ATMs in places like convenience stores and gas stations, with their plain-text screens, that should worry you. These are old, primitive, and likely unable to be upgraded to Windows 7. When I asked the owner of a nearby gas station about it, he dismissed it all with a wave of his hand. OK, I won't use that ATM ever again.

Chiropractic office – This is a pretty cut-and-dried case - the doctor's patient management and billing software is only available on XP. If he buys new machines, he can't use the XP version; he must upgrade to a Windows 7 version, which costs over five figures. There's no ROI on that, so my favorite bone cruncher isn't moving until he has to.

Optometrist office, Costco – This was pretty much the same situation. The eye doctor told me that her machines, which are only internally networked and don't touch the Internet (I never did get a straight answer on how she updates Windows), would require a software upgrade of more than $10,000. She could afford new machines, but not new software.

Optometrist’s office – I switched eye doctors after the one at Costco failed me a few times. This new one told me he was reluctant to upgrade Windows because it would mean swapping everything out at once, very difficult for an office open six days a week. He had done migrations before and something always went wrong that disrupted the entire office. This was a no-go for him, so they went back to the old system. So he's biding his time for an opportune week to make the upgrade, when he can do it all at once and shake out the bugs.

Doctor's office – At the medical group where I go for routine treatment, whenever a doctor or physician's assistant came in to take your case and vitals, they would come with an XP-loaded laptop. Finally, in recent months they have replaced them with iPads running the same software that was on the laptops, too. So this was one case of a laptop replaced with a tablet. They just cut it close to the deadline.

This is hardly scientific, of course, but it does point toward a trend - it's not the OS that's the issue, nor is it the hardware. It's the expensive vertical software and potential disruption of business that's a problem. I'm not sure Microsoft can do much here. This is the work of ISVs and consultants/field tech support people. For that reason, $50 and $100 discounts won't accomplish much.

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