Recent reports that one of Melbourne’s largest hospital networks was still running Windows XP raised questions about the continued use of the operating system.
A poll conducted by MyBroadband in January revealed that even among a tech-savvy audience, around 3% still use the venerable operating system. This number is corroborated by our site analytics.
To explain why Windows XP clings to life – it has been out of extended support for almost 2 years – we looked at the launch dates and lifespans of the versions of Microsoft’s operating system since Windows 95.
However, Microsoft only lists information such as end of retail sales and end of pre-installed sales for Windows versions from XP onward.
These details, along with the launch date, end of mainstream support, and end of extended support, are depicted in the infographic below.
Mainstream support includes free support and product updates, including the ability to request product design changes and features.
Extended support includes security updates, with the option to pay for additional support.
Most-loved and long-lived Windows
Windows XP is the most long-lived version of Microsoft’s modern operating systems by a significant margin.
While Microsoft typically releases new versions of Windows every 2 or 3 years, there was a 6-year gap between the release of Windows XP in 2001, and Windows Vista in 2007.
The reaction to Windows Vista was tremendously negative, causing many Windows users to hold off on upgrading until after the launch of Windows 7 in October 2009.
It is interesting to note that with nearly all the versions of Windows listed above, the sale of machines pre-installed with the operating system halted before its mainstream support ended.
There are two exceptions: Windows XP and Windows 7 Professional.
The popularity of Windows XP
To suggest that Windows XP remains in use purely because people got used to it and refuse to change with the times would be selling it short.
Yes, there were many complaints about the operating system – particularly its “Fisher Price toy” look and the introduction of product activation – but it introduced a number of features that resonated with users.
Under the hood, Microsoft merged the Windows 9x and Windows NT branches in XP, and stopped supporting 16-bit backwards compatibility through MS-DOS.
Windows XP also dropped support for Microsoft’s VxD driver model, forcing hardware makers to use the Windows Driver Model.
Consensus in the industry was that this decreased occurrences of the infamous “Blue Screen of Death” due to misbehaving drivers – a major drawcard for users upgrading from Windows 98 or Millennium Edition.