Celebrate XP's 10th anniversary -- switch to Windows 7

Eighth in a series. This week, the most successful personal computer operating system ever turns 10. Microsoft officially launched Windows XP on Oct. 25, 2001, with a muted New York gala. The Redmond, Wash.-based company tempered planned festivities. The collective American psyche wasn't ready to celebrate much of anything following terrorist attacks the previous month against the World Trade Center and US Pentagon. This week at BetaNews we'll give Windows XP a bit of the festivity it deserved and didn't get a decade ago.

But we'll temper this celebration, too. For all Windows XP's successes, it has been too long in market. Too many of you still use this venerable workhorse, which is testimony to its compatibility, familiarity and utility. But XP is showing its age. In August, F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen wrote for BetaNews: "Do a good deed today, uninstall Windows XP". That's good advice. He observes that the operating system's security simply isn't as good as Windows 7, or even Mac OS X. "Ten years is an eternity in this business. So it's no wonder XP's security architecture is not up to date".

A Betanews commenter going by Hans responds: "Send your article to my employer, and to my former employer, and to the employer before him, and send -- oh well, you catch the point. In fact, I'm rather afraid I won't see the end of XP before I retire".

"So we should make decisions based on what hackers might do?" reader Kevin Provance asks. "That's akin to capitulating to terrorists. If you want to let a bunch of entitled brats dictate what you do with your computer, then by all means, cower in fear. I am quite happy with XP and see no need to use an OS that looks like it came out of the WIlly Wonka reject bin, thanks".

Security isn't the only consideration. In the decade since Windows XP launched, the personal computing landscape dramatically changed. Cell phones are more personal than PCs, and more common. The United Nations says there are 5.5 billion cellular subscribers worldwide. The Windows PC install base is about 1 billion. In mature markets, people adopt smartphones at rapid pace. In August, 234 million Americans 13 or older used cell phones -- 85 million smartphones, up from 55.7 million a year earlier, according to comScore, which also finds that more than half of US mobile subscribers use data services. Meanwhile, services like Facebook and Twitter, which only opened to the public in 2006, have changed how people connect. Then there is cloud computing -- a topic too big for this post.

So much has changed since Windows XP launched 10 years ago, there's a simple question to ask: Do you want to live in the past -- support your legacy apps, business processes or personal computing habits -- or embrace the present and future?

BetaNews reader smarterthanyou scolds:

Anyone who doesn't want Windows 7 on their PC really needs to have their head examined. Windows 7 has better hardware support. It can run every single Windows XP program in existence. Even those custom-designed business programs without modification. Windows 7 is faster than XP in every single area and unlike XP, Windows 7 doesn't experience that gradual slowdown over time that eventually requires a reinstall. The image-based install in Windows 7 makes it much easier to install in a corporate environment than XP.

So celebrate Windows XP by switching to Windows 7 -- or perhaps download Windows 8 Developer Preview and begin testing it for eventual deployment. Tip your glass to Windows XP, then let it go.

"Do they really think XP die-hards will 'celebrate' XP's decade by leaving it for Windows 7, which has reduced usability (no Classic Start Menu, no TweakUI, no decent search, dumbed-down Taskbar, piss poor buggy Explorer), extremely limited customizability and tons of features broken by design?" asks BetaNews reader xpclient (how appropriate).

I must admit that many XP die-hards likely won't switch soon, particularly in markets where software pirates are Microsoft's greatest competitors. But many people or IT organizations are simply dragging their feet, letting inertia and the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" principle rule the day.

We'd like to offer encouragement. This week, we'll publish more Windows XP memories, something we started in August on the 10 anniversary of XP's release to manufacturing. If you've got a story to tell about XP, I'd like to publish it. Please post comments here or, better, email joe at betanews dot com. I also ask for your XP-to-Windows 7 stories -- that's encouragement for XP hold-outs. Your experience might help others make the move, which arguably can be painful, since there is no direct upgrade to Windows 7 from XP. Comment below or email me.

To celebrate Windows XP, we'll give away some goodies this week. I contacted Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices PR and the folks responsible for peripherals graciously offered some mice. We'll give away Arch Mouse (two), Explorer Touch Mouse (two) and Touch Mouse (one). Thank you, Microsoft, for the generosity. I can't make promises, but we'll see if maybe the Windows & Windows Live group could contribute a few copies of Windows 7 to the week's giveaways. Microsoft also is encouraging users to get off XP and on to Windows 7.

I'll offer more on when and how you can win something from the Microsoft goody stash on Tuesday. For now, consider writing a captivating Windows XP recollection or XP-to-Windows 7 transition story as best chance to win something.

Photo Credit: Nate Mook

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