Microsoft today implored its technically astute customers to help friends and family who are still running Windows XP get rid of the soon-to-be-retired operating system.
The Redmond, Wash. company's appeal was akin to General Motors asking customers to help the Detroit automaker sell new 2014 Cadillac Escalades, or General Mills asking consumers to convince friends to switch from their monochrome Cheerios breakfast cereal to something more colorful, like Trix or Lucky Charms.
"Today marks 60 days until the end of support for Windows XP and we need your help spreading the word to ensure people are safe and secure on modern up-to-date PCs," said Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc, a spokesman who frequently blogs for the firm. "As a reader of this blog, it's unlikely you are running Windows XP on your PC. However, you may know someone who is and have even served as their tech support."
Microsoft will deliver the last public patches for Windows XP on April 8, after which users will be on their own, and -- as security professionals have pointed out -- be in the crosshairs of cyber criminals.
LeBlanc suggested readers assist others in either upgrading their current Windows XP personal computer to Windows 8.1 -- assuming the hardware is up to snuff -- or help them purchase a new PC to replace their aged machine.
He drew the line at asking that they pitch a few dollars into the new PC pot for those friends and family members.
LeBlanc's pitch was the most flagrant by Microsoft so far in its years-long drumbeat to smother Windows XP, and an unprecedented plea that could easily be viewed as a desperate, last-ditch move to suppress XP.
One reader certainly seemed to think so. "My friends and family will kill me if their PCs are upgraded to Windows 8.1," contended peter jj in a comment appended to LeBlanc's blog.
What neither Microsoft or LeBlanc offered was help for the helpers, such as a price break on a Windows 8.1 upgrade, or a deal technically-aware people like peter jj would likely appreciate even more, a discount on a Windows 7 upgrade.
Although Microsoft slashed Windows 8's price for a few months after the OS's October 2012 launch, it reverted to normal practice in January 2013, when it restored the $120 sticker price for the consumer version and the $200 tag for the business-oriented Windows 8.1 Pro.
As for Windows 7, Microsoft pulled that edition from its own online and retail stores, and stopped selling it to retailers at the end of October 2013. Still, most retailers have stocked up on Windows 7, and continue to move the 2009 OS: Newegg, for instance, sells Windows 7 Home Premium for $100 and Amazon.com sells it for $90.
That OEM edition comes with some caveats -- it cannot be transferred from one PC to another, and Microsoft will not provide free technical support over the phone -- but for someone who knows their way around a system, as LeBlanc assumed in his call for assistance, neither would be deal breakers.
Calls for Microsoft to offer a deal on Windows 7 or even Windows 8.1 have come from security experts, industry analysts and the company's customers.
"Microsoft needs to...release a very affordable, safe and easy to install XP replacement for older computers," said Computerworld reader BillyGTexas in a comment on a December news analysis piece about XP's pending retirement.
Others have argued that Microsoft should continue to support XP, but provide patches only to customers willing to pay for said support. Microsoft already has plans to do just that: It will continue to craft patches for Windows XP vulnerabilities rated "critical" and "important" after April for its "Custom Support" program, an after-retirement contract designed for very large customers who need more time to expunge the old OS. Custom Support costs about $200 per PC for the first year, and more each succeeding year.
"Those that want support for XP should pony up," suggested Jim_in_IT, another reader. "If everyone bands together and offers to pay Microsoft $50 a year per desktop you might be able to convince them to help. Get 1 million people signed up and I bet you can get their attention. Just don't expect free support forever."
Apparently, Microsoft has a different idea, as illustrated by LeBlanc's "help-us-help-you-help-them" plan. "We hope that this end of support page for Windows XP on Windows.com and all the resources there is helpful to you and can be something you can use to help your friends and family get off Windows XP," LeBlanc wrote today.
The end-of-support site LeBlanc mentioned can be found here.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.