What does (sniff) Windows XP End of Support Mean to My Organization?

What are organizations going to do when Microsoft ends their support for Microsoft XP? Is this a concern for you? For me, it is. After all, it is my IT department’s job to worry when the core operating system will no longer be supported at the end of June. And so began my after-work project venturing off to “ancient” computers, and alternative operating systems. In short, Ubuntu Linux.

Let me take a step back into the world of buzz words. Web 2.0! Mash up! Virtualization! SOAP!. It is hard to read a Computer World (CW) issue that does not have at least one of those buzz words. You know what? Virtualization sounds cool. It also fits well with my belief in green computing. So, after repeatedly reading about virtualization, I installed Linux in a virtual machine. With the help of users on Hardware Canucks http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/ I put together an updated desktop to run it.

I joined the Ubuntu forum. I used google.

It’s one thing to read CW articles, but it is another thing to apply its findings.

As fate would have it, I managed to get my hands on a pair of very, very old desktop computers who would be perfect candidates for Linux.. Having gained the familiarity of linux, I also got comfortable with Gnome, KDE, and the power of command-line.

Is XP usable? Well, one desktop was so slow that it would take several minutes before the “Start” button would appear. Mind you, this system did not have XP re-installed on it for at least 4 years. I downloaded Ubuntu “Hardy Heron” v8.04, and installed it without any major hitch. The only issue was enabling the installation of commercial video drivers. Boot up times were cut to under one minute.

A second computer I recently received had just 128mb memory and was running Windows 98 ME. Using the power of msconfig, uninstall, ccleaner, and defrag, I reduced the boot time from 3 minutes down to 1.

So what does all this have to do with XP’s end of support? It is two things. Organizations are not going to want to spend on hardware upgrades when centralized computing, software as a service, and services oriented architecture are becoming popular.

There is simply an insufficient need for powerful desktops for the typical end-user who might run applications on the web. Second, I can see that applications might eventually become operating-system agnostic. If a Ubuntu Linux system can run on a very old computer but access the web, it is usable. Therefore, does the organization require Vista?

If Windows 98 ME can run the latest browsers and the associated plugins (acrobat, flash, etc.), then if XP is no longer supported, is the organization at risk of something as serious as a shut-down? I would make the prediction that when XP support ends, the anti-virus tools and anti-spyware tools will still run on XP. Corporate firewalls will add to the additional layer of protection.

The real story isn’t that XP’s support is ending, but that Microsoft is finally opening up to the open source community. I read that Microsoft is going to provide a package that allows .NET to run in Linux. That’s amazing. This might even foreshadow the architectural design of Windows 7: a Windows that can be installed modularly.

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