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The “Save Windows XP” Campaign Rages On!

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It’s been 108 days and counting (as of the writing of this article) — that’s what the banner of a popular website, “Save” has posted. In just 108 days (or 3 short months) the day many Windows XP users dread will be here.

The end of manufacturing of Windows XP is coming at the end of June 2008, and according to the almost 100,000 signatures from the “Save XP” campaign, Windows users are not happy.

Opinions differ wildly on the subject. One blog rails about the campaign to Save My colleague and friend J. Peter Bruzzese was lambasted by readers when he wrote his blog post Save XP, Why Bother?

But it’s not just the technology community and geek squads of the world uniting. Major publications like the Wall Street Journal have weighed in on the matter as well, with one of its user commenting that Windows Vista is to XP what Windows Me was to Windows 2000.

But before you choose to build your barricade and defend the last bastion of Desktop PC freedom, take a moment. Before you break out that duct tape and begin scouring websites for parts (sounds like the movie “ROBOTS” released by Fox Movies, doesn’t it) to keep that Pentium 4 running forever, consider the facts.

What does the end of XP really mean?

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To begin with, what you might not know is that June 30th is not the absolute “drop dead” date of Windows XP. That date is the date that Microsoft will stop manufacturing Windows XP, which means no new copies will be produced. OEM manufactures like Dell and Compaq will cease to sell the product on or about June 30th.

However, some retail shrink-wrapped copies are bound to be available for some time. If you need to be on Windows XP, a retail version can be put on any (one) machine. Nothing is stopping you from buying a new system in late 2008 or early 2009 that will run XP.

Buy a retail version now and hold on to it until you’re ready for a new machine, but remember these rules do not apply to OEM versions. Support will continue until 2009, so there is really no issue there (extended support will go until 2014). If businesses and home users haven’t made a decision by then I think they have more to worry about other than what OS they are running. But until you come to that impasse you can hold onto your precious XP.

What are people really afraid of?

Windows XP is now 7 years old. Vista just turned a year old and quite frankly, Windows 7 is quickly following behind. Now from someone who runs XP Professional on my laptop and Vista Ultimate on my desktop. I can tell you I see no reason to fear what’s new.

It’s weird that we eagerly await the newest game systems, the newest mobile devices, yearn for next year’s cars to hit the dealerships all because we want the latest and greatest. Somehow this rule stopped applying to operating systems. Now while ME was a disaster, I don’t recall anyone decrying Microsoft for replacing Windows 98 with Windows 2000. And there was no uprising when Windows 2000 gave up the “Windows crown” to Windows XP.

So what is really at the core of the user rebellion?

Consider two things that have been introduced with Windows Vista. Now there are more than two, but it’s my opinion (based on many conversations with clients and friends) that these two are of the greatest concern to users. .

First: Vista is secure. Wait – isn’t that what we all wanted, better security? Well, that’s what everyone said. But I have been Beta testing Vista since Beta 1 and the minute I saw that dialogue box pop up and ask me for a password – and then ask if I was sure I wanted to continue – I knew users would go “out of their minds.”

But I didn’t just think it, I asked some partners, managers and staff for the New York accounting firm I was working for to try working with Vista. 100 percent of them hated it instantly.

As Director of IT at the time I thought this was the most ingenious piece of security to be added to an OS yet. I still believe this is the truth, but the reality is that most of us want security but without any inconvenience (you can turn UAC off, but I wouldn’t suggest you do that).

The second thing that hit me instantly was the new interface. The Windows desktop had undergone an extensive overhaul after basically looking the same since Windows 95 (Windows XP changed the interface a bit, but how many users are still using the classic look?).

The marginal change to XP (what my friend J. Peter Bruzzese likes to call the “cartoon look”) was easy for users to swallow, but we are creatures of habit. And Vista gave us a whole new desktop and Start Menu to deal with. Again, when I saw it I applauded (I really did), but I knew my users would hate it and they did. But the look of Vista is incredible, from the color schemes to the wallpapers to the sleek, serious, dare I say “mature” look.

In short CHANGE IS SCARY…Of course reports of slower speeds, resource hogging, unsupported drivers and software are all common complaints. But let’s remember something. How many of us upgraded from Windows 98 to 2000 and faced a similar problem?

I remember needing to wait until XP was released for 18 months before I could install it in my environment, because many of our software vendors could not run their software on XP. Hardware is always moving faster than software. The Quad core is here and 10 or more core systems are coming up quickly. RAM speed is increasing and hard drives using perpendicular recording will increase capacity and speeds exponentially.

So what does it all mean

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Ultimately, no one is forcing users to leave XP. Come down off the barricade and put away your Anti- Vista t-shirts. The campaign to save XP ultimately will pass by, and by late 2009 users will be angry over Windows 7.

In the meantime you can stay put, face the future and embrace Vista, or alternatively you can do something a little in between. See my article on Dual Booting between Vista and XP.

Whatever your choice, don’t get swept up in the sensationalism of the Save XP campaign. You can’t blame Microsoft for creating a new product and seeking to make a profit. After all, how many businesses succeed by creating nothing new for 7 years and doing nothing to reinvent themselves. Vista is here and XP has served us well, but its time has come to be placed where it belongs in our fondest memories as we move on with our lives and forge ahead.

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