Windows 8 is 21 times safer than XP, and 6 times safer than Windows 7

I remember the UK launch of Windows XP very well. It took place in London a few weeks after the attacks of September 11 and security around the event was tight. Steve Ballmer was there to discuss the new OS in his own inimitable style, and afterwards we were given a copy of XP to try out for ourselves. That was 12 years ago, and obviously a lot has changed in the tech world since then, yet plenty of businesses are still running XP -- a major source of frustration to Microsoft.

In a blog post yesterday, Tim Rains, Director of Product Management in Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing group, discussed the risks of running Windows XP after support ends in April 2014. In a second post elsewhere Chris Hallum, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, talked about how the evolution of security threats impacts businesses.

Two separate and equally interesting posts, but with a common aim -- to get businesses away from XP and onto a newer operating system. Microsoft would like this to be Windows 8 or 8.1, but Windows 7 would at least be a step in the right direction.

Chris Hallum's post also came illustrated with an infographic showing the evolution of security threats and how things have changed since XP first launched back in 2001. I'm a sucker for these kinds of things, and it's packed with the sort of numbers you want to see. In 2001, for example, there were 50 million internet users, today there are an estimated 2.7 billion. There were 31 billion emails sent in 2001, today it's 297 billion. When XP launched we had fax machines, chat rooms and in-person meetings, now we have social media, the cloud, web apps and video conferencing.

The infographic also looks at how the threat landscape has changed in 12 years, and then finishes with an interesting statement. According to Microsoft, Windows XP is currently 21 times more likely to be infected by malware than Windows 8, while Windows 7 is six times more likely to be infected than the new OS.

Microsoft doesn't go into any details about the source of those figures or how they were derived -- it's not a new claim though, Chris Hallum has said the exact same thing in interviews previously -- and while I have no reason to doubt the statement, Microsoft is clearly comparing unprotected machines here (i.e. Windows XP with no form of third-party anti-virus installed).

I wonder whether market share might not also play a role. After all, according to NetMarketShare, as recently as last month Windows XP had a 37.19 percent share of the desktop operating system market, and Windows 7 a slightly larger 44.49 percentage. Windows 8 accounted for just 5.4 percent.

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