China has a massive Windows XP problem

By the time of XP's retirement in April, around 10% of all U.S. computers will be running the OS; in China, 65% of companies will do so

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Some people may never upgrade for the simple reason that their Windows XP PC is their last PC. When it dies, so does their interest in traditional personal computers. Instead, they'll just use their tablets all of the time rather than just part of the time.

Migration experts have opined that the easy upgrades have been done, and what's left are the much more expensive ones. Many consumers simply can't comprehend why there are laggards at all, ignoring the economics of shifting hundreds, even thousands of systems from one OS to another.

But the truth is that people are deserting Windows XP.

In the U.S., XP's rate of decline over the last six months has been 60% higher than the global average. Over the last three months, it's been 116% higher. The majority have fled to Windows 7, which in July powered half of all personal computers in the U.S.

Even China has been making strides, with XP reduction rates equal to, or in the case of its six-month average, greater than the U.S.'s. A quarter of the country's computers now run Windows 7, Net Applications estimated.

But the large numbers of PCs destined to be running XP next April has prompted speculation -- in some cases, running back years -- that Microsoft will back down, perhaps at the last minute, and continue patching at least the worst vulnerabilities in Windows XP.

That hope stems from the numbers. In the U.S., the 9% or 10% or 11% of all computers likely to be running XP next April represents millions: If the Computer Industry Almanac's 2012 estimate of 310 million in-place systems is used, XP will be on at least 28 million PCs when the retirement clock reaches midnight.

Microsoft's given no hint that it will back down. Even as recently as last month, during its Worldwide Partner Conference, it touted the sales opportunities in helping customers ditch XP, claiming the migration was a potential windfall worth $32 billion.

Most analysts have concluded that there's little use thinking Microsoft will blink. John Pescatore, at the time an analyst with Gartner, put it best in a December 2012 interview: "I think they have to draw a line in the sand," said Pescatore. "They've supported XP longer than anything else."

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

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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