Microsoft tells small businesses and consumers who love XP: Get lost

If you're a big business, Microsoft is happy to provide you with XP security patches at a reasonable cost. But if you're a consumer or own a small business, it's another story: No patches for you, at any price.

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports that Microsoft is providing large corporations with XP patches beyond XP's official retirement date. Not only that, but only days before it stopped providing XP patches for the general public, Microsoft slashed the prices it would charge large companies for the patches. Daryl Ullman, co-founder and managing director of the Emerset Consulting Group, said that Microsoft had cut the price for providing the patches for a company with 10,000 XP-based machines from $2 million to $250,000. That comes out to $25 a machine, a reasonable price for security. Back in 2012 and 2013, Keizer notes, the price was $200 per machine, with a maximum cost to a company of $5 million. Under Microsoft's new plan, the top cost is $250,000.

If you're a small business or a consumer, though, you can forget about getting them. Microsoft won't be providing them to you no matter how much you're willing to pay. The patches are only available to large companies that sign custom support agreements, called CSAs. CSAs allow companies to pay for XP patches while the companies migrate to Windows 7. In order to get a CSA, a company has to also have in place or sign up for Premier Support, a Microsoft top-tier support plan.

Why does Microsoft favor big companies like this, while telling consumers and small businesses to essentially get lost? Several reasons. One is the fear of bad publicity if a big company gets hit by a security breach in unpatched XP. If a small company or and individual get hacked, that doesn't make the news. If a company with 10,000 PCs gets hacked, it does.

Microsoft also fears the wrath of its largest customers. Keizer reports that Microsoft decided to drop the price of XP patches to them after its sales force reported how angry their large customers were about the high price of the patches. Keep in mind that although Windows powers countless consumer and small business PCs, enterprises are where Microsoft really makes its money. And it wants to keep them happy.

So if you've got an XP machine and you're not using it for work in a large company, you're on your own. It's clearly not fair, but don't expect Microsoft to provide you with XP security patches. It's simply not going to happen.

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