Windows XP - an alternative

Excellent idea from Trevor Pott at The Register:

Mathematics of trust: How Microsoft can keep Win XP alive - and WHY
What if Microsoft announced it's not ending support for Windows XP next Tuesday after all, and instead will offer perpetual updates (for a reasonable fee, of course).

Something inside me, somewhere between my sense of humor and soul-crushing cynicism, drove me to turn that dream into an April Fool for this year. But all cruel joking aside, there's a very real discussion to be had about this.

How Microsoft chose to handle the Windows XP end-of-life is a great starting point for a discussion about the ethics and obligations of high-tech companies.

Almost a decade ago, I would have counted myself as one of Microsoft's biggest champions. Server 2003 R2 and Windows XP SP2 were fantastic upgrades to their predecessors. Microsoft was innovating again in the browser market, and the results of a massive internal refocusing on security were becoming visible to plebeians like me.

Amazing new technologies were pouring out of Microsoft, and Redmond appeared to be listening to its customers. Partners were (mostly) happy with how Microsoft was doing things and developers were jumping into the exciting world of .Net. The promise of upcoming releases gave us hope that the hits would keep on coming.

Vista and the 2007 range of server software, Office and other applications arrived, and they were pretty awful. Hope turned to ashes, but it was hard to dispel the absolute and unshakable faith I had in Microsoft. I was confident they'd turn it around... even if Vista and RibbonOffice were going nowhere near my PC. (Boycotting an app suite is hardly a protest, mind. Microsoft is rather hard to kill.)

Three years later, Microsoft managed to crank out Windows 7 and the 2010 line of server software, Office and so forth. Life was good, but it didn't last. Windows 8, the "all stick, no carrot" push to get us subscribed to the Office 365 cloud, the SPLA licensing redux, VDI licensing and a thousand more terrible decisions mounted. A former loyal champion, I had become one of Microsoft's loudest critics. Why?

And Trevor's idea?

I have been told by people I trust to know such things that it should take no more than 25 full-time programmers to provide ongoing patching support for Windows XP. Let's double that number to 50 just to be on the safe side. Let's also assume that doing Windows XP support at Microsoft is so awful that we need to strongly incentivize these developers, so we'll offer them $500K per year. We'll double that figure to make sure the developers get good benefits and that we factor in administrative overhead.

Based on the above we get 50 x $500,000 x 2 = $50m as the cost of ongoing yearly Windows XP support for Microsoft.

Trevor took the number of installed XP systems, weeded out the people who are running XP because they are cheap or those not connected to the internet and figured out that MSFT could charge $65/year for ongoing XP support and make a lot of money. A great idea and I am surprised that they aren't working with this model. There are a lot of ATMs running XP out there.

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