Microsoft Risks Security Reputation Ruin By Retiring XP

A decade ago, Microsoft kicked off SDL, or Security Development Lifecycle, a now-widely-adopted process designed to bake security into software, and began building what has become an unmatched reputation in how a vendor writes more secure code, keeps customers informed about security issues, and backs that up with regular patches.

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Such a program could advance several goals Microsoft has set. It would promote Windows 8.1 devices, and be seen as a way to boost that edition's profile as much as to eradicate XP. If the devices, after a trade-in, were in the lowest-priced category -- Microsoft's reportedly cut Windows 8.1's license fee for sub-$250 notebooks -- it might quiet the complaints from some current XP-forever users that they can't afford to upgrade and simultaneously attack Chrome OS-based Chromebooks, the cheap laptops that Microsoft seems to be very concerned about. Additionally, a trade-in or trade-up program would bring some XP users into the Microsoft Account fold, the single sign-on used to connect to the company's services, and so into the customer pool for those services.

But because it's the most radical of moves, it's also the one least likely for Microsoft, conservative by nature, to make.

Undoubtedly, Microsoft has thought of those options, and likely many more: The company doesn't lack for brainy people, even though some of its marketing messaging has been off-key. But by the evidence -- silence most of all -- it rejected them and decided to continue the march to XP patch cut-off.

That's a shame. Because once Windows's reputation and that of the ecosystem starts taking hits because unpatched XP systems become infected, it will be too late to do much more than watch that reputation swirl toward the drain.

None of the above suggestions are guaranteed to hasten the elimination of Windows XP from the rolls of active operating systems; ultimately, only time will do that. But by taking one or more of those steps, Microsoft could point to what it has done to help customers get off XP, rather than have others point out what it has not done. That could mean the difference between a tainted reputation and one still credible.

Microsoft cannot afford a stumble like the one which that result from XP turning on its owners and the company that made it, not when the PC business has stagnated, when its tablet strategy has yet to pay off and when that same strategy relies on an operating system named "Windows."

This story, "Microsoft Risks Security Reputation Ruin By Retiring XP" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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