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Latest posts by Michael Pietroforte (see all)

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes from ZDNet believes there are seven reasons to stick with Windows XP. I would like to express my opinion about each of his claims in this post. But first read this warning: If you are a Windows XP fan and dislike sarcastic rants, you had better not only skip Windows 7 but also this article.

Okay, you obviously ignored my warning. So let me first raise your adrenalin level a little before we tear each of Kingsley-Hughes’ points into pieces.

I have already outlined that skipping an operating system version is a mistake in most cases. I know that a large number of admins are "skippers". And it’s no wonder. Admins tend to be overworked, and operating system upgrades usually just mean more stress for a certain time period. That’s why they easily fall for such false arguments as those presented in this ZDNet article. The fact that the majority of the readers voted for this article proves it. Telling your boss that you don't like to upgrade to a new operating system because you don't want to work more for a certain time period is probably not the smartest thing to do. But repeating "arguments" published in a well-known magazine that even your boss finds appealing might foster your career and your leisure time as well.

Okay, if you are a skipper, you are now well prepared for what comes next.

Stick with what you know ^

This is my favorite. "Stick with what you know" translates into "Don't even try to learn something new." "Learning curves" are dangerous paths which we should "bypass altogether." How can a writer ever publish something like this? This is very close to "Never read again" or at least "Never read Kingsley-Hughes again."

Certainty ^

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is afraid of the "unknown." Well yes, computers are mysterious beings and their future behavior is often unknown to us, particularly if compatibility issues arise after an operating system upgrade. Of course, moving into uncharted territory always causes uncertainty and you have to weigh the gains against the risks. But Kingsley-Hughes believes that "the best research and testing" can "never truly eliminate" the "unknown." Thus, he tells us weighing the risks is pointless because it is doomed to fail anyway. It follows that if you want certainty, you had better never upgrade. But rest assured that another thing is very certain then. Sooner or later your company will also be unknown because it will cease to exist.

Cost ^

Let me cite the first sentence of this claim:

While many people like to cling on to the belief that upgrading operating systems will save them money, in the real world this is rarely the case.

Please read this sentence again. Now tell me what is wrong with it? How often has your company upgraded operating systems, and why? If you are Kingsley-Hughes fan you probably would say "But only because the Microsoft-Intel cartel forced us." Is that so? Did they also force you to replace all the typewriters with word processing systems in your company? Yes, this also cost a lot of money. The point here is that "avoiding costs" is not the same as "saving money." The word that differentiates these two sentences is called "investment." If Google had invested more in their IT infrastructure and replaced all their XP machines with Vista earlier, they would have never been hacked by Chinese hackers. Google’s reputation has been tarnished, and many companies will now hesitate to invest in Google's cloud infrastructure. Believe me, sticking with XP didn't really save Google any money.

XP is still supported by Microsoft ^

Last time I checked, Microsoft still supported XP. Yes. So what? By the way, Windows 2000 is supported until July 2010. Perhaps this is a good reason to downgrade your XP machines to Windows 2000 until then? We don't know whether Kingsley-Hughes would recommend this. However, we do know that "support" and "support" are two completely different things for Microsoft. "Extended" support until April 2014 doesn't mean that they will offer more support for XP. It means all you get are security updates. They won't even fix bugs any more. Hence, if a yet unknown XP bug crashes one of your central apps in 2013, it is unknown but highly uncertain if your company will survive.

Upgrade components to stay secure! ^

This one surprised me. It appears upgrading third-party components does not lead into the unknown. Perhaps the "certainty argument" only applies to Microsoft software. I don't know. I have to cite the Google hack incident again to demonstrate how wrong this argument is. Security updates for applications and the operating system are necessary, yes, but by no means are they sufficient to "stay secure." We are living in a fast-moving world. The number of hackers and crackers out there is increasing every day. To stick with a hopelessly outdated operating system is not only insecure it is also grossly negligent. Besides, if you constantly upgrade your whole IT infrastructure except your operating system, you will run into compatibility issues and be plunged into the "unknown" faster than you can deploy patches.

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Do you really need to upgrade? ^

Kingsley-Hughes suggests that you think about it. Thinking is always good, even if you are exposed to the danger of having to learn more about the unknown. Unfortunately, the result of Kingsley-Hughes' thinking is also unknown. No, seriously. Don't even start to think "how those new features will translate into value for the money." This bad habit has become quite popular lately. The point is that it is absolutely impossible to relate such a complex piece of infrastructure as Windows to the earnings of a company. There is no formula that translates features directly into the value of money. This is why the skippers have such an easy win. If you can't calculate the exact value of improved security or central management, then there probably is none, they argue. But this is just nonsense. It is a matter of fact that worldwide productivity skyrocketed because of the introduction of IT, and in fact, the accelerating advancements in hardware and software technology still increase productivity year after year at a never seen accelerated pace. Of course, the Windows ecosystem is a major component in this process. Falling technologically behind competitors has never been riskier than in these days. So after evaluating Windows 7 in detail, I can tell you the outcome of my thinking: Yes, you do really need to upgrade.

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17 Comments
  1. Migration Expert 12 years ago

    Once again you've hit the nail squarely on the head, Michael. I think Kingsley-Hughes is either out of his mind or just trying to draw traffic--maybe a little of both. In any case, I don't think there's a single valid reason any large organization should stick with XP.

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  2. Slyfin 12 years ago

    I know one organization that's clinging to XP. (all the way to the downgrade right expiration) This isn't because they don't want to upgrade or fear of the unknown but because they painted themselves into a corner. They run NetWare/OES Linux with the Novell Client. To date that client will brick a Windows 7 box.

    So they are stuck because of past decisions.

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  3. Migration Expert, thanks. You know, I am always thankful if someone gives me ammunition for rants against skippers. 😉

    Slyfin, there are certainly environment dependent reasons that justify skipping a Windows version. If you have unsupported applications or hardware that you really need, then you have no other choice. However, in this case I wonder why they stick with NetWare.

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  4. Bob 12 years ago

    I'm sorry Michael, but Kingsley-Hughes is correct, even though he's a bit too radical for my taste. We've been using MS-DOS 3.3 here for the last 20 years, and can state with certainty that we've never, ever had a blue screen of death on any of our 386 systems.

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  5. Hmm Bob, you have a point there. However, I like radical views. That's why I like yours. 😀 I wonder which browser you used to write this message?

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  6. Bob 12 years ago

    Which browser? That's obvious: Lynx rocks!

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  7. I absolutely agree. Lynx is the best. I am sure it has not one vulnerability. It is just a pity that you can't see all the great ads on 4sysops. 😉

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  8. Bret 12 years ago

    Why can't common sense prevail? I think both you and Kingsley-Hughes are too radical in my opinion. Sometimes skipping a version makes sense. Immediately and blindly embracing the latest version is just like being a lemming for the manufacturer. An admin needs to evaluate the new version, analyze the pros and cons, and make the best decision.

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  9. Bret, yes, I am radical, I am radically progressive. What do you expect if you compare a nine years old OS with a brand new one? I have done this evaluation thing for almost 30 years and I can't remember that I have ever tested an OS that was not worth an upgrade.

    It is simply not likely that 5,000 engineers create something that is not significantly better than its predecessor. I also doubt that a single admin is able to make "the best decision". Windows is far too complex and admins usually don't have the time to evaluate an OS in detail.

    For example, how can an admin decide how a simple feature like the favorites in Windows Explorer will influence productivity of end users? If you really want to evaluate this, then you have to run a scientific study. And there are hundreds if not thousands of such tiny improvements in every new OS version.

    I believe that many admins overestimate themselves if they think they can make such decisions by just playing with a new OS for a couple of weeks. Usually only big companies have the resources to put together a team that does nothing else than evaluating the pros and cons for their organization.

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  10. Ilija Brajkovic 12 years ago

    Great article, I really agree with you. It's all about investing in a future, and Windows 7 IS a future.

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  11. Ilija, thanks. I'd say Windows 7 is the present. 😉

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  12. Robert Morris 12 years ago

    As a developer for a small company we have to skip Microsoft versions due to the many things that break our otherwise working applications, which we do not have the time or resources to fix.

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  13. Robert, this is certainly a valid argument. However, sooner rather than later you will run into problems. The longer you wait with updating your applications the more difficult and time consuming it will be.

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  14. Fred 12 years ago

    I can name a good reason: Vista. Thank god we skipped that beast!

    What 'wonderful' new features did I miss? ... got me
    What hirrible things happened to me for not switching? Nothing.
    Did I save money. Oh yes.. NO QUESTION AT ALL there. We bought a VLK that let us update from 2000 to XP and then absorb new seats as we bought machines. If we went to vista, just double that + some.
    Will jumping from XP to 7 be harder? Maybe.
    Was it worth it? Heck yeah.

    Will those who hold off on going to 7 suffer? Not much I think. We're going to do it.. slowly. It's massively expensive and hard to justify quite honestly.
    XP works well for us. I have 700 machines with 200 core apps +300 more scattered around. I have yetto find something that says Vista only! Windows 7 only!!!
    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Yes, we're moving on. I get that it's time but, I have no issues with skipping Vista, therefore I hold no grudges with those who stick to their guns against 7 for another year (or 3)

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  15. Fred, how can you be so sure that your 700 users didn't miss some of the the countless new features in Vista? Vista's new features would have improved the productivity in your organization. New technology always does. Thus I doubt that you saved money with skipping Vista. Besides, don't you think that the improved security alone would have been reason enough to upgrade?

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  16. Fred 12 years ago

    If they did miss them, I never heard about it (and they are a vocal group). I did hear from a number of users that updated at home and either didn't like it or didn't see any significant improvements.
    We certainly didn't miss the "productivity enhancements" that came with UAC! I highly disagree that new technology = better productivity (see clippy the helpful paperclip). I'm not certain which security improvements you're talking about. We've had no issues here on the inside.
    In raw licensing dollars we saved about 3/4 a million by skipping office 2003, 2007 and vista. Thats real numbers. MS has been working with us on Windows 7, office 2010 updates and we're looking at about that much easily since we're looking at MDOP to leverage app-v med-v.
    Are users going to have a tough time switching from office xp/windows XP to Windows 7/Office 2010? Maybe. But it's no less shock that switching from office 2003 to office 2007. Many have gone through this at home so, I have a workforce that is better prepared with the transition.

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  17. anonymous 12 years ago

    There are issues still present today with Windows 7 and reasons to stick to Windows XP SP3:
    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_features_removed_in_Windows_Vista
    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_features_removed_in_Windows_7

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