Enterprises: We'll run Windows XP even after retirement

48% of companies say they they'll run XP after Microsoft retires the OS in 2014

Nearly half of the companies still using the nine-year-old Windows XP plan to keep running the aged OS even after Microsoft withdraws its support in 2014, a research analyst said today.

"IT just really, really likes the XP operating system," said Diane Hagglund, a senior analyst at Dimensional Research, which recently surveyed more than 950 IT professionals about their Windows and Microsoft Office adoption plans. "They say it's just that good, and don't want to mess with it."

According to Dimensional's poll, IT pros split on how they would handle the April 2014 retirement of Windows XP: 47% said that they would ditch XP for a newer Windows before then, while 48% claimed that they would continue using XP sans support.

Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP after April 8, 2014 when it issues the operating system's final set of security patches.

The large number of companies that plan to keep XP on the front lines, even without support from Microsoft, stunned Hagglund. "It wasn't just very small companies saying this," she said, adding that the stick-with-XP movement was across the board.

"We're seeing a number of major financial services and manufacturing companies opting to continue running XP without support," said Hagglund. "And it's not a price issue. From the comments we did get, IT simply thinks it's a great OS, one that's still working for them."

For all their talk, enterprises don't plan on running XP forever, only for some time after the 2014 support cutoff. "I think six months or so after Microsoft ends support, they'll really quickly upgrade [to a newer Windows] as they realize the systems are vulnerable because they've not been patched," Hagglund said.

Microsoft has been pushing XP customers of all stripes, including enterprises, to upgrade to Windows 7. While Dimensional didn't query IT professionals about what operating system they were leaving behind as they migrated to Windows 7, they're doing the latter in increasing numbers.

More than a third, or 38%, of those polled said their companies have implemented a partial roll-out of Windows 7, up from 15% in January 2010 , the last time Dimensional surveyed IT administrators and staffers.

Six percent of the companies have fully deployed to Windows 7 , a six-fold increase over the 1% who said the same back in January.

"What's really interesting here is that if you look at the numbers, they've almost exactly adopted according to plan," said Hagglund, citing figures from the migration schedules expressed in January of 2010.

"That's a real indicator that Windows 7 migration is going well," she added, noting that making plan is the best that enterprises do. "No one exceeds plans," she said.

On Thursday, Microsoft cited Windows 7's adoption pace as a big reason for its better-than-expected quarterly earnings numbers. "Companies [are] adopting Windows 7 ... at historically high rates," said Peter Klein, Microsoft's chief financial officer, during a call with Wall Street analysts. Microsoft's Windows division posted revenues in the third quarter that were up 10% over same period of the year before.

Microsoft also said that Windows 7 adoption rates were increasing, but didn't back that up with any figures.

Like Hagglund, other analysts have also pointed out that Windows XP won't disappear anytime soon. Michael Silver, who covers Microsoft for Gartner Research, has said that 20% of all enterprises will spend more time and money than they plan to migrate to Windows 7 because of compatibility issues in Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), the browser bundled with XP.

"IT is happy with XP," concluded Hagglund.

Dimensional's survey was conducted for Kace, a systems management appliance company acquired by computer maker Dell earlier this year. Hagglund's report can be obtained at Kace's site (registration required).

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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