Microsoft's attempts to persuade XP users to switch to Windows 8.1 are wide of the mark

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will officially end support for Windows XP. After that date, users of the aging OS will no longer receive new security updates, hotfixes, support options, or online technical content updates.

Obviously the tech giant is worried about the dangers than might befall XP users who continue to cling on to the decade-and-a-bit old OS after that date, and that’s the reason for all the blog posts that have been appearing lately. I mean, sure, it looks like Microsoft is cynically using the death of XP support purely to try and persuade people to upgrade to Windows 8.1 but that’s not the case, honestly. Oh, okay, maybe it is. A bit.

Today’s new blog post is a prime example. It helpfully goes into details on what is going to happen after April 8, pointing out that, "Many newer apps won’t run on Windows XP; new hardware may not support Windows XP; and without critical security updates, PCs may become vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware and other malicious software that can steal or damage personal information and business data". It also adds that "driver support will be discontinued, meaning that new printers, scanners and other devices may not be compatible with PCs running Windows XP and Office 2003".

So far, so helpful, but then suddenly the inevitable Windows 8.1 hard sell kicks in, and XP users are told it’s time to make their move into the modern PC era and are presented with a list of reasons why they should choose the tiled OS, as opposed to the massively more popular Windows 7, or a Linux-based solution, which my colleague Brian Fagioli suggests.

The post describes Windows 8.1 as the "best Windows yet", which is kind of true, and kind of not. I use Windows 8.1 and think it’s great, but you have to ask, if it’s truly the "best Windows yet" why is Microsoft still making wholesale changes to it? But I digress.

Then comes a list of reasons why XP users should choose the new OS, all filled with airy talk of "touch performance", "apps and services" and a "beautifully redesigned Windows Store". If I was an XP user, that would instantly put me off.

If you’ve been using XP since it launched, or for a very long time at least, pretty much your only reason for considering upgrading now would be for security purposes, and to ensure any new software runs properly. A tiled interface, Bing integration, a food and drink app, and the inclusion of IE 11 "designed from the ground up for touch devices" really aren’t going to appear on any XP user’s wish list.

"Windows 8.1 was built around you," the blog post proclaims, "and features an improved and even more customizable Start screen with variable tile sizes and more background designs and colors…"

That doesn’t sound like something built around a Windows XP user.

But that’s the problem with all these blog posts Microsoft has been producing lately. They start off talking about the end of days for XP and then end up cutting and pasting from the Windows 8.1 sales brochure.

If Microsoft really wants people to switch from XP to Windows 8.1, maybe it should be focusing on the features that might actually appeal to those users. Like the ability to automatically back-up personal content, the inclusion of modern drivers, improved multi-monitor support, various future proofing features, built-in protection against malware, ongoing security updates and support, and the fact you can refresh your PC without affecting your files. There are plenty of reasons for XP users to consider upgrading to Windows 8.1 but few of those users will be persuaded to make the leap if the best Microsoft has to boast about is a colorful tiled front end and built-in Bing.

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