That is what nearly half of the companies in one survey have said. The statements include words about using Windows XP after the end-of-life date of April 2014.

That may seem like posturing right now, but what does it really tell us about the things that Microsoft has wrought for itself?

ComputerWorld is the source for the news, and gives individual accounts as well as the survey statistics –

Nearly half of the companies still using the nine-year-old Windows XP plan to keep running the aged OS even after Microsoft withdraws its support in 2014, a research analyst said today.

“IT just really, really likes the XP operating system,” said Diane Hagglund, a senior analyst at Dimensional Research, which recently surveyed more than 950 IT professionals about their Windows and Microsoft Office adoption plans. “They say it’s just that good, and don’t want to mess with it.”

According to Dimensional’s poll, IT pros split on how they would handle the April 2014 retirement of Windows XP: 47% said that they would ditch XP for a newer Windows before then, while 48% claimed that they would continue using XP sans support.

Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP after April 8, 2014 when it issues the operating system’s final set of security patches.

Now, remember three things –

The first is that Windows XP holds at least 60% of the operating system market right now [this varies with both survey and method, but 60% is the lowest it is right now – all other surveys show a higher figure], so that if all this is taken as fact, Windows XP will have at least a 30% market share one third of the way through 2014. Not only is that a greater market share than Vista ever had, it is more than any non-Microsoft OS has ever had.

We are talking about these businesses using something that will have no support whatsoever. From Microsoft that is. There will be plenty of people like myself that will be more than willing to help with anything that is not specifically an unresolved bug in the operating system. (Even then, I’ll be happy to try to work around any problem of that type!)

Microsoft states that Windows XP is inherently inferior to Windows 7 , yet, as many businesses are aware, there are many things left out of Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2, so that there are things easily accomplished with XP that need either complex Powershell scripts, or third party solutions in the newer Windows versions. These same businesses know that, with the proper firewall and anti-virus, and just a wee bit of intelligence, Windows XP is solid, and it will take a lot of ingenuity on the part of the hacking community to make life tough on the intelligent XP user.

The large number of companies that plan to keep XP on the front lines, even without support from Microsoft, stunned Hagglund. “It wasn’t just very small companies saying this,” she said, adding that the stick-with-XP movement was across the board.

“We’re seeing a number of major financial services and manufacturing companies opting to continue running XP without support,” said Hagglund. “And it’s not a price issue. From the comments we did get, IT simply thinks it’s a great OS, one that’s still working for them.”

So with the idea that money is no object, the idea that these companies are using Windows XP only to be able to use Internet Explorer 6 is a red herring of the smelliest kind. If these companies can afford to upgrade to Windows 7, they can certainly put forth any dollars to re-engineer the custom applications that need IE6. I’d hazard a guess that they already have, or never used such crappy dependent code in the first place.

For all their talk, enterprises don’t plan on running XP forever, only for some time after the 2014 support cutoff. “I think six months or so after Microsoft ends support, they’ll really quickly upgrade [to a newer Windows] as they realize the systems are vulnerable because they’ve not been patched,” Hagglund said.

Microsoft has been pushing XP customers of all stripes, including enterprises, to upgrade to Windows 7. While Dimensional didn’t query IT professionals about what operating system they were leaving behind as they migrated to Windows 7, they’re doing the latter in increasing numbers.

Of course, that means troubles for adoption of Windows 8, unless it is a stunner! (Pssst! Mr. Ballmer, First on the Windows 8 agenda should be putting back most of the things removed from Windows Vista and 7  [add: there are wiki pages devoted to the removal of things from Windows Vista and Windows 7, which were in Windows XP] – more choice is what sells, not less. The features don’t need to be built in solidly, just have hooks that will allow their use if desired.)

More than a third, or 38%, of those polled said their companies have implemented a partial roll-out of Windows 7, up from 15% in January 2010, the last time Dimensional surveyed IT administrators and staffers.

Six percent of the companies have fully deployed to Windows 7, a six-fold increase over the 1% who said the same back in January.

“What’s really interesting here is that if you look at the numbers, they’ve almost exactly adopted according to plan,” said Hagglund, citing figures from the migration schedules expressed in January of 2010.

“That’s a real indicator that Windows 7 migration is going well,” she added, noting that making plan is the best that enterprises do. “No one exceeds plans,” she said.

Microsoft also said that Windows 7 adoption rates were increasing, but didn’t back that up with any figures.

It’s hard to make that stuff up on the spot!

Like Hagglund, other analysts have also pointed out that Windows XP won’t disappear anytime soon. Michael Silver, who covers Microsoft for Gartner Research, has said that 20% of all enterprises will spend more time and money than they plan to migrate to Windows 7 because of compatibility issues in Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), the browser bundled with XP.

“IT is happy with XP,” concluded Hagglund.

Dimensional’s survey was conducted for Kace, a systems management appliance company acquired by computer maker Dell earlier this year. Hagglund’s report can be obtained at Kace’s site (registration required).

On Thursday, Microsoft cited Windows 7’s adoption pace as a big reason for its better-than-expected quarterly earnings numbers. “Companies [are] adopting Windows 7 … at historically high rates,” said Peter Klein, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, during a call with Wall Street analysts. Microsoft’s Windows division posted revenues in the third quarter that were up 10% over same period of the year before.

By the way, and I’m not sure why it is not mentioned, Kace is developing a browser. One that is supposed to work on Windows XP, and be very secure. I tested it and was unimpressed, but that was a while ago – it could have gotten better.

The problem here is that Firefox is slipping too. Fewer people are using it, and Chrome already has a sandbox, more speed, and the support that Firefox lacks for a few things. Opera has most of this, too, and has not needed, up to this point, a sandbox, as the Opera Desktop Team is very efficient at catching and squashing security bugs. With both of them working on Windows XP, supporting HTML5, and being faster than Firefox, where is Kace going to go?

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The problems for Microsoft are just starting, unless it can get some help from the vendors of peripherals and the motherboard manufacturers – can you say payola, boys and girls? Only if Microsoft can induce these manufacturers to remove support for Windows XP will things be very good for them. On the other hand, since driver design is a black art, and the development of drivers is much simpler for Windows XP than for Vista or Windows 7, how much money would it take to remove a paying part of the population from using your products until they pay Microsoft a hundred dollars or so?

I know I’ll be running Windows XP in one form or another until then, I’m sure. I’ll need to be able to keep up on newer software interactions with the older OS, for customers, but also because I have so many computers that have licensed copies of it (copies that can, if need be, moved to newer machines, as they are full copies, sold before any time when the license was tied to a specific motherboard).

Also, I also just like it. It stems from familiarity, but also ease of use. There is no obstinance in my stance, I have three copies of Windows 7, all provided by Microsoft, so it is not a problem of money, nor is it a problem of hardware. At this time, all the machines I have, even those that are single core, will handily run Windows 7.  As I write this using Wave 4 of the Windows Live Writer, I am thinking how much easier the final steps of generating the full article is on a machine that has Wave 3. For me, that is on a machine that also has Windows XP.

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Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.

– Russel Lynes

Opera, the fastest and most secure web browser

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