There are just four months to go until the end of support for Windows XP on April 8th, 2014. XP still has lots of users but while most of them are resigned to this situation the Chinese government is so concerned about the security implications that it has met with Microsoft to ask for an extension.
Microsoft has been keen to get its XP customers to switch. It launched a downloadable Windows XP End Of Support Countdown Gadget in April 2011 and since then has flagged milestones towards the end of support, after which there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates.
Microsoft's publicity campaign has had some effect - there is a discernible dip each successive April on this chart which looks at OS usage on a worldwide basis.
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According to data from StatCounter since April 2011 XP's share of the OS market has fallen from 46% to around 20% while Windows 7's increase from around 30% to just over 50%, with Windows 8 accounting currently for a further 7%.
In China, however the situation is very different. Although XP's share has declined over the same period and Windows 7's has increased, XP is still the predominant version of Windows with 50% market share compared to 40% for Windows 7 and 4% for Windows 8.
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The imminent end of support for XP is seen as a significant security threat according to Chinese site Techweb. It reports that the deputy director of China's National Copyright Administration Yan Xiahong met with representatives from Microsoft, the global Business Software Alliance (BSA) and other software companies in order to "safeguard the interests of users in China".
On of the problems highlighted by Xiahong is that once Windows 8 went on sale, Microsoft withdrew the low end Windows 7 operating systems making it more costly for businesses, including many government departments, to upgrade.
The meeting was focused on the issue of software piracy and Xiahong hoped that extending XP support would assist the efforts his organization has made towards reducing the piracy rate of 77% revealed by the 2011 BSA Global Piracy Study.
Microsoft and its hardware partners obviously hope that the end of support for XP will lead to a boost in sales new PCs running more recent versions of Windows, however in view of the time it takes for large organizations to plan and deploy a new operating system it would seem that giving China, and any other laggards, a bit of leeway might be very helpful and could actually boost these sales.
Whatever happens in the case of China, the dropping of support for XP is going to be a first. Windows XP was the first widely adopted operating system to use product activation. Microsoft hasn't made it clear if it will continue to provide the activation servers needed to install or re-install Windows XP. Turning off the activation servers would ensure that XP died a quick, but very noisy, death.