Canadians speak out: Why we want to save XP

IT managers have spoken and their cry is loud and clear: Windows XP is still mission-critical.

Like previous software upgrades, Microsoft Corp.’s plan to stop selling retail versions of XP this June will leave many IT folks scrambling to catch-up.

To try and stave off the operating system’s impending demise, IT managers from across the country are signing ComputerWorld Canada’s SaveXP online petition. The recently launched initiative allows readers to protest the mandatory Vista upgrade as well as keep up-to-date with the latest on XP support, tips, tricks and industry commentary in the SaveXP blog.

For Wayne Bonaguro, IT manager at Carpenter Canada, Microsoft’s move away from XP is coming just too soon for his Calgary-based foam manufacturing company.

“All our machines run by programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and some of the PLCs we have in existence cannot even handle XP yet,” Bonaguro said. “In fact, the companies that develop these devices, like Siemens and Allen-Bradley, haven’t even begun working on Vista compatibility. We’ve just recently gotten most of our systems running nicely under XP, so to get that yanked out from underneath us is going to be an issue.”

And many of the same sentiments were shared by Alan Pollard, IT director at the Winnipeg-based Law Society of Manitoba, who said that in-house legacy applications have given him fits during his preliminary testing with Vista. A potential upgrade, he said, would cost too many headaches and “a whole bunch of costs.”

“We’ve got a legacy database written back in the olden days that just doesn’t run, so really that’s the end of the discussion,” Pollard said. “That’s why we’re trying to buy a little bit more time before an upgrade. Oddly enough though, the database runs fine in Linux using Wine, so we may actually have to commute in that direction.”

Pollard said that over the next several years, his firm will be looking at thin client solutions for a potential upgrade – an area in which Microsoft currently falls short.

“When you take a look at all the portable devices around, with the iPhone and so on, people are going to want to be able to access their corporate legacy database off their portable devices,” Pollard said. “That’s not going to happen in the infrastructure we’ve got now. And that’s not going to happen with Vista either.”

At Halifax-based IMP Group Ltd., the aerospace engineering company said software compatibility tops the charts as one of its reasons to avoid the upgrading. George Moxsom, manager information services at IMP Group’s Aerospace Division, said that Vista is still incompatible with Oracle Corp.’s JD Edwards enterprise ERP software – an important application to the company’s operations.

“For any PC we buy, we make sure it can be downgraded to XP,” Moxsom said. “I think Microsoft needs to be taking a hard look at Vista’s problems and either extend XP or bring on 2007 quicker.”

Since Vista’s launch, Microsoft has touted the operating system as the most secure and highest-performing platform to date. But despite these claims, many IT managers have said that XP has developed into an incredibly mature environment.

“At this point, XP is a pretty stable and user friendly environment,” Bonaguro said. “Even among all my users, I’ve seen everybody’s skill level go up with the operating system. Moving to a new version like Vista will have us almost starting over and, in the business world; we don’t have time to allow for that.”

Bonaguro’s hopes Microsoft will reevaluate their current plans and give customers the option to upgrade at their own pace.

“Microsoft should let the business guys buy a licence for it, even if they make us buy a Vista licence as well, it would help us out,” Bonaguro said. “I’m a little tired of Microsoft ramming things down our throat at their pace. They live in a bubble, and unfortunately, a lot of us live in the real world where we don’t have the budget for these upgrades.”

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