Thursday, January 16, 2014

Update: Microsoft will continue to provide updates to our antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015.

Some welcome news from Microsoft. Microsoft will continue to support Microsoft Security Essentials until July 14, 2015.

Microsoft has announced the Windows XP end of support date of April 8, 2014. After this date, Windows XP will no longer be a supported operating system. To help organizations complete their migrations, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to our antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015.... read more.

Personally I think Microsoft are short-sighted. They're forcing people off Windows XP. The will offer large corporates the ability to have support at a high premium, but in my mind if they are willing to provide any support to anyone then why not provide the support to everyone. Do it once for someone that same work can be reused for everyone. Perhaps Microsoft could even offer that end users could purchase a year to year update for $10. There are hundreds of millions of XP users and even if a small percentage took up the offer that's a lot of dollars. To put this in perspective I believe Microsoft charged OEMs $10 per copy of Windows XP they installed on Netbooks. If that is true $10 was enough for an entire copy of the licence, so what not for a yearly update.

I estimate over 100 million good computers can't be updated and Microsoft is effectively shafting these users. To me that's not right. With over 30% of Windows users using Windows XP, which is perhaps around 400 million, this is the worst example ever of a company dumping on their users. I for one will find it hard to respect Microsoft again for such behaviour. Microsoft has always been my preferred business operating system but now they've well and truly lost that advantage. I've never been an Apple fan, but right now I'm writing this blog post on an Apple MacBook Air. I'm now equally happy using and suggesting an Apple or Microsoft based system depending on the type of client and their needs. Microsoft through their own actions have reduced their standing in the marketplace.

Another year is welcome. At least this means reasonable malware protection. Google has also said they'll support Google Chrome on Windows XP for another year. Outlook Express hasn't been updated I suspect since 2006, so really that means some protection in terms of malware, an option for the browser, and not much difference with Outlook Express. A percentage of computers get infected now so the end-of-life only introduces one more weakness. That is, as other products are updated and released this may give malware writers the ability to exploit a weakness in Windows XP. I certainly don't go into the details of what the patches are that come out, so I don't know how a user would be affected.

If you are going to keep using Windows XP you are accepting some risk. Make sure you perform a regular backup so your data is safe. Maybe even install a better firewall such as ZoneAlarm so if you do get infected and the malware tries to connect out the firewall may alert you. Perhaps grab a copy of some free software which can create a restore image for you. That way you can quickly restore your system if you get infected.

This one change in policy from Microsoft in my mind makes a huge difference. Is the need to purchase a new computer or operating system for an older computer as important now. I think that need has just been reduced to a degree.

Kelvin Eldridge
Ph: 0415 910 703 for IT support.

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