Microsoft is so keen for businesses to upgrade, it's actively bad-mouthing Windows XP through the mouthpiece of an IDC survey.
Despite extending support for the operating system that wouldn't die, Microsoft is gently pushing users away from Windows XP with the release of a survey claiming that support and management costs are five times higher than with Windows 7.
Originally released in October 2001, Windows XP was the first consumer-centric operating system to be built on the New Technology (NT) kernel. Up until that time, NT-based systems were the domain of servers and professional workstations.
Following the disaster that was Windows ME, Windows XP was a breath of fresh air. Early reviews denigrated the new-look interface - known not-so-fondly as the 'Fisher-Price OS' - but the ability to revert back to a more familiar Windows 2000-style environment helped address those concerns. Users who upgraded found side-by-side assembly - SxS - helped to address DLL issues, the NTFS file system offered improved functionality over FAT32, ClearType boosted text quality on liquid-crystal displays, and fast-user switching made computer use more harmonious in a multi-user household.
Windows XP would rapidly become the company's most popular operating system ever. The release of Windows Vista did little harm: like Windows ME before it, Vista was considered a rushed release and many - businesses in particular - chose to stick with Windows XP and skip at least one generation of Windows.
The release of Windows 7, known to some as the operating system Windows Vista should have been, finally started to make an impact in Windows XP's user base. From its position as the majority platform in 2007, XP is now estimated to sit at under 30 per cent - many of which are business users relying on Microsoft's downgrade offer and the surprise announcement of extended support for the ageing operating system through 2014.
Despite Microsoft extending the support for the OS long past its official deprecation date, the company is doing its best to convince business it's time to switch. A report from market watcher IDC, commissioned by Microsoft itself, claims that the support costs for XP are outrageously high: 11.3 hours of repair time for every Windows XP system was given as an average, compared to just 2.3 hours for a system running Windows 7.
In XP's defence, the survey wasn't exactly exhaustive: to reach its averaged figures, IDC canvassed just nine organisations. The survey also makes little distinction in whether the service calls are due to the age of the operating system or the age of the machines: systems running Windows XP are far more likely to be old and dying hardware than shiny new Windows 7 boxes.
Other figures from the survey, however, paint XP in a very poor light indeed: operational tasks including patch management and system deployment took on average three hours per XP-powered system a year compared with under an hour for Windows 7. The fiscal impact is also telling: IDC claims that productivity losses and support costs related to the use of Windows XP in the enterprise totals $870 per PC per year, compared with just $168 for machines based on Windows 7.
The message is clear: it's time to upgrade.
While Microsoft will doubtless be hoping that the laggard third of the market still running XP will be upgrading to Windows 8 on release, IDC's is rather more realistic: according to the results of the study, Windows 8 is unlikely to have much of an impact in the enterprise sector until some time towards the end of 2013 as businesses take a slowly-slowly approach to testing and adoption.