Catching someone playing Snake II on their Nokia 3310, hearing the sounds of dial-up broadband connecting or seeing someone browse through their music collection on a minidisc player is perhaps unlikely to happen in 2014. Although such technologies were must-haves in the early 2000s, more than a decade later, they are pretty much consigned to the tech scrap heap.
But if you thought all technology launched at the turn of the millennium was now long gone, you would be wrong, as today's popularity of 13-year-old operating system Windows XP goes to show.
XP was launched in October 2001 and was one of the first major operating system releases under the leadership of then-chief executive Steve Ballmer, who at that point had been in the top job for less than two years. The operating system went on to have huge success and was not replaced until 2006 when Vista came along, making it the vendor's longest-running OS to date.
But 13 years after it was first launched and following a massive migration campaign, Microsoft is finally ready to pull the plug on Windows XP. As of 8 April, support for the OS will be no more after the final security patch is issued.
Although machines running XP will still function, in a bid to usher users off the OS, Microsoft has warned users that XP will become wide open to hackers and malware writers, putting their data at risk.
Despite this, it seems the year-long migration campaign and multiple security warnings have not had the desired effect, as Windows XP is still one of the most popular operating systems in the world. Figures from Net Applications show that in February, Windows XP had 29.53 per cent of the global desktop operating system market share, bettered only by that of Windows 7, whose share stood at 47.31 per cent.
Closer to home, in the UK public sector, it appears to be a similar case. An exclusive investigation into local councils by CRN suggests that 52 per cent of local authorities will be running Windows XP in some form after the 8 April end-of-support deadline.
CRN sent 433 Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to all local councils in the UK and 236 replied, giving a detailed breakdown of their device estate - PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones and thin clients - and on which operating systems they run. In total, after 8 April, 20 per cent (121,417) of the total devices that were declared in the FoI responses will be running XP.
Of the councils that will be running XP in some form after support ends, six will run XP on every single machine in their estate, and more than 20 will rely on XP for at least 85 per cent of their estates.
Microsoft declined to comment on CRN's research, but during an interview with us recently, its global channel chief Phil Sorgen admitted that he did not think all organisations would hit the 8 April deadline.
Microsoft and the Crown Commercial Service have finally thrashed out a deal and public sector bodies will now be able to access support for Windows XP for another 12 months. But although the duo has thrown customers a lifeline, questions remain over the public sector's heavy reliance on XP.
121,417 - number of devices declared in FoI responses running XP in local councils after 8 April, accounting for 20 per cent of all declared devices
52 - percentage of local councils running XP in some form after the end-of-support deadline
1,126 - number of Windows 8 devices used in local councils, compared with 298,472 Windows 7 devices
62 - percentage of devices running XP before the end-of-support date which will also be running XP for some time after the deadline
65 - percentage of local councils which responded to CRN's FoI requests within the 20-working-day deadline
Why will there be so many devices left on XP?
The end of Windows XP was always scheduled to fall this year, and Microsoft has hardly kept quiet about the switch-off over the past 12 months, so critics might be forgiven for questioning how organisations have not got around to upgrading their device estates.
But according to IDC research director Chrystelle Labesque, the strict budget cuts local councils faced during the height of the recession have had a long-term impact, particularly on their IT estates. "The last wave [of high PC shipments] in the business area is just after Windows 7 was introduced," she said. "We're mainly talking about 2010 being a good year.
"But in the public sector it was a time of budget freeze. When [the public sector] should have renewed, they didn't really have the budget to get the better hardware [or] the money to deploy to Windows 7. So from that perspective, we know there are a lot of devices in there longer."
One reseller told CRN that another reason councils are reluctant to upgrade is their "if it ain't broke, don't' fix it" attitude. He said that Microsoft's hard-line campaign focusing on security risks bordered on scaremongering, which led council IT chiefs to dig their heels in and stick with XP.
Paul Parke, vice president for products and corporate marketing of migration specialist 1E, said some organisations are left with XP devices because the task ended up being much bigger than they first bargained for. "There is a great deal of time between [migrations] so organisations only do this once every so often," he said.
"You end up learning as you go along and it really interrupts how the business operates. There is no benefit of having done it before recently so... they have found the sheer size of the task is greater than they expected."
Who is to blame?
Both Microsoft and its channel partners played a big part in encouraging end users to migrate off Windows XP, but only IT managers themselves can sign off the upgrade deal.
Kelvin Kirby, the UK president for the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) and boss of reseller Technology Associates, said VARs did all they could.
"The channel has been very proactive with customers about migration, but it has been a bit like banging your head against a brick wall," he said.
"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. The partner community has done its bit and correctly advised that customers need to update, it is just that a lot of these councils have just buried their heads in the sand and hoped it will go away.
"Now the penny is dropping that they need to get cracking."
But 1E's Parke said that it would be wrong to criticise end users for not migrating as in many cases the task ended up being a lot bigger than they expected.
"I think that organisations have started migrating but the lessons from the last migration process don't necessarily apply to this one," Parke said. "That is more the case than it is them burying their heads in the sand."
Is Windows 8 the real problem?
According to CRN's research, Windows 8 has failed to make a huge splash in the public sector.
Based on our data from local councils' FoI responses, there are just 1,126 Windows 8 devices running in the authorities and just four councils said they were ditching Windows XP for Windows 8 - bypassing the popular Windows 7 OS.
Some 173 councils - 92 per cent - said they were upgrading to Windows 7, and 11 authorities - six per cent - said they were migrating to a combination of Windows 7 and Windows 8.
1E's Parke said his firm has helped migrate hundreds of thousands of devices off XP in the past year or so, but admitted that the vast majority are trying to avoid Windows 8.
"A considerable number of people are not moving to Windows 8 and are going to Windows 7," he said. "The reasons for this are that the [Windows 7] interface is more familiar and I think that the Windows 7 platform has been out long enough for it to be seen as being very stable."
Gartner's public sector research director Neville Cannon defended the operating system and said the work the public sector carries out does not always lend itself to touch-enabled, mobile-working devices.
"They do straightforward computational work and don't need expensive devices which are getting more used due to consumerisation," he said.
What are the risks?
At the height of the migration campaign, Microsoft revealed that Windows 8 was six times more secure than XP.
According to security guidelines for the Australian government, there are four main measures organisations can take to ensure optimum security is upheld. The first two involve limiting admin privileges to as few people as possible and white-listing apps to prevent malware, and the final two focus solely on keeping applications and operating systems patched.
The four measures, when enforced together, prevent 85 per cent of targeted cyberattacks, the Australian government claims, highlighting the importance of the security patches Microsoft will take away from XP on 8 April.
The UK government places a similar emphasis on patched applications and operating systems. Local authorities connect to central government systems through a Public Services Network (PSN), via which they can share essential services to drive efficiency. GCHQ IT security arm CESG provides advice and certification for councils using the PSN.
According to Gartner's Cannon, CESG rules state that in order to connect to the PSN, authorities must run "patchable" software, which means those running XP after D-day could be in serious trouble.
"[If councils] do not run patchable software then a breach is possible," he told CRN.
"It will prevent them connecting [to the PSN] and doing business with central government. The whole government connects to [PSN]; it is essential to keep it secure. Councils must run patchable software so any vulnerabilities are dealt with as soon as possible - on XP, that ability is compromised."
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