Is Microsoft playing Chicken Little with XP end of life campaign?

After last month’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston, Microsoft partners have fanned out across the globe armed with  warnings of security vulnerabilities once Windows XP and Office 2003 reach end if support in April 2014, as well as incentives to encourage customers to upgrade their hardware and software.

However, is Microsoft playing Chicken Little with its Get 2 Modern campaign? Will the sky really fall in April 2014? The threat has been torqued argues Shawn Allaway, CEO of Converter Technology, a solution provider specializing in enterprise migrations based in Nashua, NH.

In a recent column, Allaway draws lessons from the Y2K drama, when fear of a global computer meltdown when the clock struck January 1, 2000 led to a massive technology investment, and the calendar flipped over not with a bang, but with a whimper.

“What can we take away from Y2K? If you are a systems integrator, software or hardware vendor then you learned there’s a great deal of money to be made by hyping fear and uncertainty, and offering the ultimate panacea to enterprises seeking protection – new hardware, software and migration services that promise to avoid the risks associated with unsupported critical systems,” wrote Allaway. “If you are the enterprise, you may have learned that to avoid scrambling the jets to fly off and execute a major company-wide upgrade you must first fully understand the business impact of such capital expenditures, disruptions to employee productivity, and your own individual risk tolerance.”

Allaway isn’t arguing upgrading to a supported OS is unnecessary – just that it may not be an imperative for every company, and each individual firm should evaluate its own infrastructure and risk tolerance before making a decision to upgrade from a platform and application that has served, and is still serving, it well. And above all, don’t rush in without that thorough evaluation.

“While vendor unsupported software is not an optimal state, does it really warrant superseding other internal initiatives or, potentially even worse, rushing through an upgrade by sacrificing proper planning, testing and execution just to be on a latter version?” asks Allaway.

While Allaway is right that businesses should evaluate their own unique needs carefully, this isn’t a Chicken Little scenario. The security risks of running an unsupported and un-patched operating system should not be overlooked – hackers will be quick to identify and exploit any un-patched vulnerabilities.

While the security risk is there though, the conversation Microsoft partners needs to have with their clients is around their own unique business needs. It shouldn’t (just) be about security, but about how a modern OS and a modern Office can improve employee productivity. And with many organizations having delayed refreshing their hardware for years, moving to new software at the same time can make sense. And those are the arguments Microsoft is arming its partners with.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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