Forget Windows 8: XP users have options, says Ovum
Business users don't necessarily need to upgrade from XP, the analyst firm has said
Businesses using Windows XP don't have to move to Windows 8 once Microsoft withdraws support - they should consider other "innovative" options such as tablets, Chrome OS and virtualisation, Ovum has said.
Microsoft will stop providing security updates or patches for Windows XP from April 2014, potentially leaving the many businesses still using it more vulnerable to attacks, as well as without official support.
The cost of upgrading hundreds or thousands of desktop and laptop computers to a new operating system is significant in terms of time and money
The research firm suggested IT managers should consider cheaper options to dodge hefty upgrade costs to Windows 7 or Windows 8.
"The cost of upgrading hundreds or thousands of desktop and laptop computers to a new operating system is significant in terms of time and money, so organisations should consider how their IT budgets might be invested in more innovative projects," said principal analyst Richard Edwards.
Ovum said IT managers could give employees Android tablets or an iPad in place of Windows XP laptops, noting that they are cheaper to service and support.
It also recommended switching to a web-based system, namely Google Chrome OS, or else desktop virtualisation to bring machines back under central control.
However, that tactic was questioned by IDC analyst Al Gillen. "Using virtualisation along with what amounts to a thin client is an acceptable strategy for replacing some ageing desktops, but it is not a universally correct answer to Windows XP replacements," he said.
"Remember that if you go to a client virtualisation scenario, you still have to run the applications that were running on the XP desktop (assuming they are still needed) somewhere, on some OS," he said. "So you are not really avoiding the OS update issue, you are really just moving it elsewhere."
Ovum’s comments may come as a blow to Microsoft, which is attempting to push its customers to newer systems ahead of XP's end of life next April. Microsoft is currently offering discounts on Windows 8 in a bid to drive up interest among SMBs, but many could be leaving it too late to migrate from the OS, with fewer than half of small firms making a start.
One in five managers are planning to keep using XP once the April deadline has passed, Ovum said.
Although XP users have only a year left of support, it is still the second most popular OS behind Windows 7, according to Net Applications, with 39% of all PCs running XP, and 45% running Windows 7, while only 3% run Windows 8.