Microsoft's Attempt To Convert Users From Windows XP Backfires Thanks To Low Loyalty, Limited Benefits - HotHardware
Microsoft's Attempt To Convert Users From Windows XP Backfires Thanks To Low Loyalty, Limited Benefits

Microsoft's Attempt To Convert Users From Windows XP Backfires Thanks To Low Loyalty, Limited Benefits

For the past few months, Microsoft has been loudly and insistently banging a drum. All support and service for Windows XP and Office 2003 shuts down on April 8 -- no more security updates, no more fixes. In early February, faced with a slight uptick in users on the decrepit operating system the month before, Microsoft hit on an idea:  Why not recruit tech-savvy friends and family to tell old holdouts to get off XP?

The response to this earnest effort was a torrent of abuse from Windows 8 users who aren't exactly thrilled with the operating system. Microsoft has come under serious fire for some significant missteps in this process, including a total lack of actual upgrade options. What Microsoft calls an upgrade involves completely wiping the PC and reinstalling a fresh OS copy on it -- or ideally, buying a new device.

According to Gene Grabowski, an executive vice president with PR management firm Levick, this disaster was predictable. Microsoft has misjudged how strong its relationship is with consumers and failed to acknowledge its own shortcomings. Not providing an upgrade utility is one example -- but so is the general lack of attractive upgrade prices or even the most basic understanding of why users haven't upgraded.

If you're not familiar with modern operating systems, this is not a feature

Microsoft's blog post listing reasons why consumers should upgrade include the following "advantages." We've thoughtfully included our evaluations.

Windows 8 is "Highly Personal."

True. Since I started using Windows 8, I've begun referring to my computer with very particular names and specific phrases, most of which I didn't learn in Sunday School. When your ad copy includes the phrase "more background designs and colors" as a feature, it's possible that you're marketing to the wrong crowd.

"The Best Windows yet... scaling from 8-inch tablets, two-in-ones, and large-screen all-in-ones."

Remember, this is a blog post aimed at selling people running Windows XP. Forget tablets -- what does it do for ancient eight-pound Inspirons with wheezing fans and a mole rat living in the ducting? How's it work on a VGA-based LCD with a maximum resolution of 1024x768? Please, tell me how your touch-based tablet experience will boost the performance of my roller-based mouse.

"A beautifully redesigned store."

Full of software no one wants with hardware requirements your computer couldn't meet if someone kicked it off a cliff. If you're still on Windows XP, it's entirely possible that you're stuck with graphics hardware that's barely DX9-capable.

"Deep cloud integration with OneDrive."

If I tell my grandmother her new OS has "deep cloud integration," she'll look concerned and ask me if it makes the computer hard to see. She might even hook up a dehumidifier nearby to keep the water vapor down.

Underneath the snark, a real problem

Ok, so, making fun of Microsoft is easy -- but underneath the tone-deaf messaging, there is a genuine problem. Windows XP is 13 years old and Microsoft has no obligation to continue supporting it -- but failing to support it means that many of the most vulnerable or cash-strapped customers could end up playing host to an avalanche of malware or security exploits.

Microsoft's right to kill XP is unquestioned, but the company appears to have no insight into why its customers continue to use the OS. The fact that it only recently made a file migration tool available is evidence that Redmond hasn't actually investigated the problem. Do consumers need a low-cost upgrade version? Upgrade tools? New hardware? Are the 29% of users still stuck on XP pirates, consumers, small businesses, or enterprise users? Are we talking about broke kids in their 20s with old netbooks, elderly people stretching out the lifespan of a computer, or foreign users who can't afford an upgrade?

The fact that Microsoft apparently can't be arsed to find out means the upcoming transition will be ugly. 
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1) How big does this file look to you?

That's right: exactly 1 CD. Not that this really matters - it's a ballpark idea rather than an absolute. The most important difference, however, is that it's modular, so you  can pick just the parts that matter to you, and actually remove the parts you don't need or care for, or choose never to install them to begin with. Not so with Windows. With Windows XP, however, you have nLite which at least let you do the same prior to install; strip it down to what you actually *need* and *use*.

2) When I say I use the base operating system, I mean the kernel and window manager. If you're gonna care about the 446 executables in the Windows 7 system directories, you better start calling Linux "GNU/Linux" too. I didn't care to perform this particular nitpicking, but rather described Windows and Linux as ecosystems upon which software is built, software that the user actually chooses to start and interact with - a distinction I believed was clear from my choice of words. This is the software I was referring to;  you boot your operating system, and you stare at a desktop. Then you...actually start some software that lets you use your computer. Some of that software might come with the operating system, some software you've chosen to install separately even if it has an included counterpart.

I more or less exclusively use software in the latter of these two categories, because Microsoft's offerings beyond the operating system simply do not appeal to me. I don't use it, and so I have no interest in installing it. I *do* have an interest in libraries and frameworks that support the applications I want to use, and I have no desire to get rid of features like the preload cache (although I have disabled that in registry since the gain with SSD is negligible).

If you were to run DOS today, on modern hardware, it would be lightning fast, but the feature set would not be particularly satisfactory. My point is that XP too is lightning fast on modern hardware, but I don't miss anything from its feature set (other than aforementioned TRIM support). Because it is already lightning fast, additional optimizations implemented since are not of use to me - they would serve only to partially offset the OS (..and all that comes with it) being heavier. I don't want heavier - that's why I run a small tweaked and trimmed OS to begin with, and pick my software carefully, focusing on optimized and well-written little performance-driven apps with  as few bells and whistles as possible. This also means largely avoiding .Net applications (with nLite being a notable exception, but one that rarely needs to run).

As for what's running in the background; no, it's not an enormous amount. That's deliberate. Having used this OS since the beginning, for all these years, I have a very good idea what each component does, and whether it's actually needed. If it's not needed, it is either stopped or removed entirely. I wouldn't be making the point I am (which it seems you may have missed) unless I had a reasonable idea what makes up an operating system, from the kernel and up.

I'm sure there are many whining about XP losing support simply because they don't like change. While that may not be a rational argument, I can both understand and relate to it, and suggest you consider the possibility of there also being other, rational arguments supporting the same conclusion.

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What some of you may have forgotten or maybe to young to remember is that when Windows XP it was a piece of software damn near everyone wanted and it totally blew existing desktop operating systems out of the water when it came to desktop computing while preserving compatibility with exisiting software.

In some cases even the old legacy software could be made to run better while running under XP.

Windows 7 and 8 are a significant improvement over XP in terms of security and reliability but are far from ideal.

Linux is also much more competitive now when used as a deskop operating system, sadly *some* of the more appealing Linux desktop applications and desktop managers are lacking even XP's UI refinement. To a person willing to tinker or even look up the instuctions to change desktop managers this is not as big of an issue. But its something you never had to do with XP.

I noticed a post earlier where it was mentioned how Windows 7/8/8.1 uptime can be measured in months. In theory thats possible, but with the constant barage of Windows Updates, System Software (.NET/JAVA), and a few other programs also updating i find it hard to believe you will go more then a month or two without rebooting and having a secure system.

Lets talk about security. Unless you use third party ($$$) software and/or hardware along with a Professional or Ultimate level of Windows you have no file system security. A simple linux boot disk with NTFS support and access to your computer I can not only see all your files for all your users, I can also view/copy/modify and touch (change date/time stamps). Sound far fetched? Give it a try on your own computer. Download and burn a live distro of Linux (Linux Mint - Cinnamon is a valid option for this experiment) to a DVD or USB Thumb Drive, reboot your computer, Set your BIOS or UEFI settings to boot from your DVD-Drive or USB drive.

Now after a few minutes of getting accustomed to your new Linux environment you will be able to browse the contents of the files on your system. And with careful but certainly not difficult steps you can view, modify and even delete any or all files on the system with out leaving a trace as to how these events took place.

The same is true for XP Home systems.

A lot of people don't like the UI of the newer versions of Windows. There is a learning curve to jump from XP to Windows 7, and its even steeper to jump to Windows 8/8.1 for an XP user.

The hardware requirements are obsurd. Microsoft and Windows is not completely to blame here but it baffles my mind when a driver for an intergrated sound chipset for Windows 7 is 109 MB. Another example, open up and run Firefox or Chrome and browse the internet for a day. At the beginning of the day note the amount of RAM used. Now at the end of the day not the amount of RAM used, and yes make sure you only have one "tab" open when you make the messurements. Do the same experiment with multiple tabs open.

For common everyday websites (not niche gaming sites) I see no practical reason why Firefox or Chrome grow their memory foot print to near or even beyond 1GB. You could argue in-memory cacheing for speed? Thats nice, give me the option to easily turn it off or better yet manage it. This is a problem with these browsers even in Linux, they love memory.

Which is sad, one of the reasons Firefox orignally came to be was they didn't like how resource heavy Netscape had become. Looks like its time for a rethink here too.

Here are my ideas. give us the core of Windows 7 or 8/8.1. And then present us with a UI that suits are needs. You may want windows 8.1, I want 7, a lot of people want XP. There is no reason Microsoft can't do this. Better yet provide a set of api's of various hardware requirements to their developers and let developers create UI's that can be sold on Microsofts App Store. Doesn't Microsoft get a piece of the profits?

Just my thoughts.

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This OS along with the many old computers running it just refuse to die. (x_x) I moved from XP to Vista and was sorely disappointed. Windows 7 was great and after getting used to Windows 8/8.1 I now love it.

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Joel and others.

I've worked with computers for most of my life. Microsoft has missed the boat entirely on Windows 8. While I no longer work in the IT field I am still considered by most of my friends and peers to be a computer enthusiast. I am one of those people that enjoy working with and on computers. My machine contrary to many of the arguments here is a state of the art desktop. It hosts the most current I7 processor, boatloads of ram and dual graphics cards and despite all of that Windows 8 has rendered my system a pain in the ass to use. I have multiple monitors on my system but even my wife's single monitor system has problems because of an interface that was designed for a tablet.

Working on something simple as a document (using Microsoft Word) becomes frustrating when I try to navigate the document and the damn screen keeps popping up to the left and bottom of my document. Try to open up a program and I have to fight with the Microsoft App store because they want to install a poorly written app in place of a well written program (Skype is a good example of this). Simple necessary programs fight this interface and it should say something that a program like Windows Classic Shell sells as well as it does.

You are right about the file structure being better, you are right about it being a better underlying program. However, you miss the point. The Betamax was the better machine, but it didn't make it as a product because the people who most used it disliked it.

Microsoft is making a lot of bad marketing decisions. Look at the early surface machines which wouldn't run MS Office products. This is one of them. Bring back an interface that lets desktop users who don't want/need touchscreens to function. I am not going to trade 3 30" monitors for a damn crappy touch interface just to make my OS - not my programs - my OS to function. Microsoft Windows 8.1 has become the OS/2 of this generation - technically advanced but not wanted.

For what it's worth Intel is about to make the same mistake with BGA chips. It will kill the enthusiasts market and when it comes down to just who has the cheapest machine AMD will win because no one will care if it's a percentage point faster, they will care if its cheaper.

Windows 8.1 epic fail

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I actually remember a great deal of hatred spilled over XP and people decrying Day-Glo interfaces and stupid icons, declaring that you'd pry Windows 2000 from their cold, dead hands. I've gone 3.5 months on a single reboot; my system has been up for 30 days at the moment.

2). I agree with you that Windows 7 / Windows 8 do not offer default file encryption on the Home versions, but what this shows is that "security" is a very diffuse topic. "Encrypted file systems," is an absolutely valid security metric, but so is "Fewer OS-level exploits" or "Non-Administrator accounts."

Windows 7 and Windows 8 are more secure out of the box than Windows XP, with fewer intrinsic points of weakness. Are they secure enough to satisfy a truly security-minded individual? Not by default, no. Not by a long shot.

3). Drivers: Keep in mind, the driver for your integrated sound card is not 109MB. The driver is 109MB because the driver author (Realtek) includes extremely fat DLLs and executables. (I just checked this. A set of Vista sound drivers for just Vista and Vista64 are 268MB unpacked -- 123MB per OS, with every file duplicated between the two.

That's horrendously inefficient, but it's not necessarily Microsoft's fault.

As for memory caching, I imagine they do it because the RAM, for the most part, is there and doing nothing else. I typically run 40-50 tabs. If they all grabbed 1GB, I'd quickly run out of room. But I expect a tab I haven't opened in 12 hours to still be sitting there, waiting for me, without the drag of reloading again.

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I'm not going to argue that Microsoft 8.1's UI is great. In many ways, it isn't. While I don't mind the desktop losing Aero, like you, I find myself fighting with triggering the left and right menu options. I dislike it. I also dislike the fact that the system defaults to using poorly-written full-screen file preview software as opposed to the Classic Desktop "Windows Photo Preview." The desktop application is actually the better solution.

So I'm 100% on-board with all such arguments -- that's why I'm still using Windows 7, after all. So if you tell me "I prefer Windows to Windows 8," (or Ubuntu, or OS X, etc) then I'm on-board with that, no problem. For me, the benefits of using W8.1 don't outweigh the negatives.

But when people say: "Windows XP or Windows 2000 are just as good as Windows 8," that's where I draw the line. Because no -- in many, many, many ways, those operating systems are *not* better than Windows 8. They aren't better than W8 for a huge number of below-the-hood reasons and they really *shouldn't* be used anymore.

I'd be happy to help someone build a Windows 7 or Windows 8 desktop experience that replicated their classic Windows 2000 environment to the maximum extent possible, or to install software that got rid of W8.1's annoying Metro qualities -- but the massive improvements baked in between 2001 and 2009 (or 2012) are more than just an annoying UI.

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If they want to convert users, they should be offering cheaper updates. I don't see why they charge so much for an upgrade when they seem to be coming out with a newer version of Windows every other year these days. Windows XP lasted so long then Vista, 7, and 8 went by in the blink of an eye with the news of 9 coming out soon.

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Windows 8.0 was sold for something like $30 as an upgrade for months. Windows 8.1 is free. Windows 8.1u1 is free.

The only reason Windows XP lasted as long as it did is because Bill Gates pulled everyone off Longhorn and set them to work repairing XP's broken security. That resulted in XP SP2, which made so many fundamental under-the-hood changes, it was arguably a different operating system altogether.

Windows 3.0 = 1990

Windows 3.1 = 1992

Windows 95 = 1995.

Windows 98 = 1998

Windows ME: 1999

Windows XP = 2001

Windows XP SP2 = 2004

Windows Vista = 2007

Windows 7 = 2009

Windows 8 = 2012

Windows 9 (Estimated) = 2015.

In other words, while you're quite right that XP stuck around longer than any other operating system, if we consider the release cycle based on the significance of the enhancements to the OS, XP SP2 slots *neatly* into place between XP and 7. Microsoft has historically operated on a 2-3 cadence between OS versions.

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I've resisted moving to Win-8 because I really like Win-7, and hated the Metro interface on my desktops. This newest flavor of Win-8 may be OK, it looks OK to me anyways. But I already own Win-7 64Bit on a total of six PCs in the house. Why buy six copies of Win-8 when I like what I have now. (That equals the cost of an upgraded PC)

On two of my PCs I have a dual boot and I am puttering around with Linux. I like that too. It's incredibly quick on my i7-2600K machine,.......

Linux does it all, but it takes a little learning to use it properly. For the price of free, it's worth it to do, as I see it. I remember that Win-7 was free for a year and I dabbled with it for that long and fell for it quickly too. I liked it so much that I took the resources and bought it for every PC in the house. Win-8 isn't there yet and may never be. show me Win-9 please,.........

- Neil Mathieson

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