The guys at ComputerWorld have penned a way for you to keep using the most popular version of Windows ever, until the support ends for Service Pack 3. The really odd thing is, if you do a little lurking in your Windows XP machine’s registry, there is a clue that there might actually be a Service Pack 4, as there are more than a few fixes lined up under that heading in every Windows XP Service Pack 3 machine.

Another article, written by Preston Gralla, indicates that Microsoft is not at all happy about the amazing numbers of users that have decided not to upgrade to Windows 7, or possibly Vista.

In my opinion, Microsoft has only itself to blame, as the disaster that was Vista, and the lethargic way Microsoft went about repairing the bad behaviors of it, lent themselves to a public that was not at all ready to try on another loser from Redmond.

Now you and I know that Windows 7 is no loser, but it is not a killer, the way that Windows XP was. Microsoft is a victim of the great programming done on Windows XP, and the mediocre programming done on Windows Vista and Windows 7. [Anyone who thinks Windows 7 is a 10, on a scale of 10, is seriously deluded. It is an 8 at best. This is, however, a giant leap forward from the 3 that the first release of Vista registered on this same scale.]

Microsoft isn’t particularly pleased about the continuing success of Windows XP, which has more than twice the installed base of Windows Vista and 7 put together. So it’s trying its hardest to kill the operating system that won’t die, including refusing to issue security patches for XP SP2, putting many XP users at risk. Is that the right way to get people to upgrade?

Of course it is, but the problem is that Microsoft is not willing, and perhaps does not have the talent, to do the hard work necessary to come up with a proper, all-on-its-own-with-no-dirty-tricks XP killer. That would require a level of polish on Windows that only Windex or “Pimp My Ride” could give. Windows has never come out polished, and over time, Windows XP became a polished OS, SP2 had a lot to do with it, and we have never seen anything that changed Windows like that, that was a middle of the lifespan change.

A report out yesterday from Net Applications shows that Windows XP has more than twice the market share of Windows 7 and Windows Vista combined — 61.87% for XP in July, compared to 14.46% for Windows 7, and 14.34% for Windows Vista.

Gregg Keizer of Computerworld reports that XP market share is dropping very slowly, and that its current rate of decline, it won’t drop under 50% until January 2010. And even then, it will far outpace Windows Vista and Windows 7, and likely have more market share than both combined.

I’m certain he means 2011, but that may not be correct either, as Windows XP is proving to be remarkably resilient, and remarkably popular. The scare tactics that Microsoft is using, to push users into upgrades, are largely lost on the greater public, as they observe so many things being attacked in Windows Vista and Windows 7. Though many may want to switch, the economy, and familiarity makes Windows XP “the devil you know”. [for most it is not a devil at all, but that idea does exist – remember how many Windows users there are, and how many are wooed by pretty colors, all over the screen!]

This is bad news for Microsoft, and it’s doing everything that it can to kill XP.Microsoft officially retired XP SP2 from all support on July 13, which means it will no longer issue security patches for that version of XP.

The SP2 patch was a significant upgrade for XP, and included a firewall and big security fixes. Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer of Qualys, a California-based security risk and compliance management provider, went so far as to say:

"Compared to SP2, every other service pack has been just housekeeping."

Windows XP SP3, by contrast, was not a significant upgrade. So many people didn’t necessarily upgrade to it, while many people made the jump to SP2.

So if Microsoft can get SP2 users to upgrade to Windows 7, it will have accomplished a great deal. That may well be the motivation for not issuing a security patch for a Windows shortcut bug that puts those users and others at risk. Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security, told Computerworld that "There’s a ton of people still running SP2."

Microsoft clearly would like to make life uncomfortable for XP users. In not issuing this patch, that’s exactly what the company is doing. True, because XP SP2 is at end of life, Microsoft did not have to issue a patch. But this is a serious security issue, and XP SP2 users are clearly at risk now.

Microsoft has been trying in other ways to get people to upgrade from XP. It has announced that Internet Explorer 9 won’t run on XP, and neither will the new version of Windows Live Essentials.

So there’s both a carrot and a stick involved in the plan. The carrot: If you upgrade to Windows 7, you get to run IE9 and other software. The stick: If you don’t upgrade, you’ll be vulnerable to malware.

There’s a better way to get people to upgrade: Design an operating system so good that XP users will happily give up XP. I’m hoping that’s what the next version of Windows will be.

The SP2 decision was stupid, but understandable. Users should not blame Microsoft, but do the necessary upgrading to Service Pack 3. On the other hand, making Windows Live Essentials and Internet Exploder 9 not work on XP is mean-spirited, and in the end will work against the Microsoft market share [it is simply bad business to piss off your largest demographic – unfortunately, even Mr. Gates did not get this one]. Those who used Wave 3 should know that the move was going this way, as there were things in Wave 3 that never worked correctly on Windows XP [and now never will]. Example – when HTML5 becomes really popular, those using Windows XP or earlier will move away from Internet Exploder, if they have not already, and IE9 will become something of an oddity, as other browsers pass it by.

Windows Live Essentials will not be exactly the same, but if Thunderbird, and its add-ons, keep going in the same direction, WLE may become less and less important – after all, there are other things out there to take the place of each of the Live Essentials, one just has to do a bit of looking.

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If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.

Margaret Thatcher

[she would certainly know…]

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