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2010 August 25 - 12:00 am

TECHNOLOGY TODAY: Despite System 7 Good Reviews, Windows XP Still Dominates

With personal computers, smart phones, and other digital technology products, the emphasis is almost always on the new — the latest and greatest. It’s thus refreshing, and curious, to see products stand the test of time and survive well beyond their expected lifespan.

One such product in the past was WordPerfect 5.1, a DOS-based word processor released in 1989 that remained popular well beyond the popularization of Microsoft Windows and Windows-based word processors in the early and mid-1990s.

One such product today is Microsoft Windows XP — the XP is short for “eXPerience.” Released in 2001, XP was Microsoft’s key operating system offering until Windows Vista was released in 2006. Even though Microsoft in 2009 released yet another successor, Windows 7, XP remains the personal computer operating system of choice for many individual users as well as organizations.

Though some individuals and organizations move to a new operating system by upgrading to it on an existing computer, many wait until they buy a new computer or computers that come with the new operating system. One of XP’s remarkable claims to fame is that when buying a new computer that came with Windows Vista or Windows 7, many individual and organizational users have elected to revert or “downgrade” their computers to Windows XP.

Microsoft made this option available only as a result of significant pressure from customers. In July of this year Microsoft yet again extended further into the future the right of PC buyers to revert to XP. But Microsoft has retained other time limits. Computer manufacturers can include XP on new netbook computers only until October 2010. And Microsoft is scheduled to cease security and other updates of XP on existing PCs in 2014.

The reasons for the attachment to XP are both rational and emotional. Many PC users were burned by Windows Vista, which caused a higher than expected incidence of performance and compatibility problems. Many PCs ran significantly slower on Vista than XP, and too many printers and other hardware products as well as software programs that worked fine with XP didn’t work at all with Vista.

Windows 7 didn’t experience such problems. But not wanting to get burned again, many people have opted to remain with the tried and true, in particular managers responsible for multiple PC users in organizational settings. Negative press has also caused individual as well as organizational users to avoid newer Microsoft operation systems.

Three years after Vista was released, XP remained far more popular, with 63 percent of the operating system market compared with 19 percent for Vista, according to W3Counter (www.w3counter.com). Today, a remarkable nine years after its release, XP remains the world’s most popular operating system, with more than 50 percent of the market, according to Refsnes Data (www.w3schools.com).

The continued popularity of XP results in part from the familiarity it engendered by being the Microsoft Windows operating system that remained current the longest, more than five years. But the avoidance of Microsoft’s current operating system, Windows 7, at times seems irrational. The product has garnered positive reviews, and my own experiences, and what I hear from others, have been almost entirely positive as well.

The biggest negative to Windows 7, as is typical with Microsoft software, is the upgrade price if you’re moving to it on your current computer. But if you move to it when buying a new PC, its cost is included in the price of the product.

Among the Windows 7 positives are better security, easier networking, improved overall ease of use, fast start-up and overall performance for desktop PCs as well as netbook and other portable PCs, and improved battery life for portable PCs.

If you’re among those PC users still using XP or managing those using XP, make sure you have the latest version or “service pack” installed, called Service Pack 3 or SP3. In July Microsoft stopped providing security updates to XP Service Pack 2. Security updates for Service Pack 1 and 1a ended in October 2006 and for the original XP in September 2004. Keeping current with security updates is important in preventing PCs from becoming compromised through hacking or other attacks over the Internet.

The first of Windows 7’s service packs, Service Pack 1 or SP1, is under development as of the time of this writing. Microsoft released a beta or test version in July. You should download it when it becomes available, but unlike with the service packs for Windows Vista, it’s reported to include minor rather than major updates.

Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at reidgold@comcast.net or www.reidgoldsborough.com.

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