The easy upgrades to Windows XP have already been done, migration experts said, predicting that a large number of enterprises will still be running the aged OS a year from now.
Microsoft plans to retire Windows XP from all support, including security patches for the public, in 52 weeks, on April 8, 2014.
But the experts said that while many customers have left XP in their rearview mirrors, those who haven't are among the world's biggest corporations and organizations, which in some cases have tens of thousands of XP PCs.
"Our studies have shown that large enterprises have made the least progress in migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7, with 64% yet to complete their migration," said Betty Junod, the director of desktop product marketing at VMware, the U.S. company known for its virtualization software. Mid-sized companies have made better progress, said Junod in an email: Slightly more than half -- 52% -- of those firms have not wrapped it up.
Browsium, a Washington state-based company whose Ion lets customers run older versions of Internet Explorer inside newer editions, agreed. "[The] easy Windows 7 migrations [have] already [been] done. What's left are the difficult and expensive migrations facing the largest of enterprises," the company's president and COO, Gary Schare, wrote in a blog post last week.
Schare elaborated in an interview Monday. "Our typical customer is a big, old organization, banks, health care, government," Schare said. "And every single one of them is stuck on its migration [from XP to Windows 7]."
Browsium's customers use Ion as a migration aid, because it lets them run legacy in-house Web apps, often designed for IE6, the browser that shipped with XP in 2001, in newer versions, such as IE8, that Windows 7 supports.
It's not that enterprises don't know about the impending retirement, or have ignored the deadline, said Schare. But circumstances, ranging from tight budgets to XP's by-now-solid reputation, have interfered.
He also wondered whether some organizations have simply balked because they had had no experience in migrating thousands of desktops to a new OS. "The move from Windows NT or Windows 2000 to Windows XP was the last time organizations really migrated," Schare wrote on Browsium's blog, noting that virtually every enterprise skipped 2007's Windows Vista. "Who remembers how to migrate desktops anymore?"
In some places, the situation is even more dire. On Monday, U.K. migration firm Camwood cited a survey of 250 IT decision makers from companies with 2,000 or more employees. According to that poll, just 42% of the represented enterprises have started their shift from XP.
"In these tough economic times, it is not surprising that business leaders do not want to invest a substantial amount of money in something that essentially isn't broken, as is the case with Windows XP today," said Adrian Foxall, Camwood's CEO, in an email.
Of the roughly four-in-ten companies that had begun migrations, a third were three-quarters of the way done, and half said they were about 50% through the move.
Those may make the deadline, but others will clearly not: Nearly 20% of the IT leaders surveyed who said their firms were currently running Windows XP acknowledged that they plan to continue using XP after Microsoft pulls support.