CIO Briefing

Microsoft Offers Agencies Incentives to Drop Windows XP

Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.com

Most major agencies discarding a 13-year-old version of Windows that will stop issuing security fixes next month are buying up Microsoft's newer platforms and Office 365 cloud software, corporate officials say.

About 10 percent of the government's several million computers will still be on the XP operating system when Microsoft stops supplying counter-hack updates on April 8, according to officials. Some are in the midst of replacing the OS, while others are taking the risk of sticking with it.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft is incentivizing customers to uninstall XP and buy new Windows products.

“We are seeing significant momentum in agencies moving to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 across the federal space,” Susie Adams, chief technology officer of Microsoft Federal, said in an email.

Meanwhile, agencies moving to the cloud typically are buying Office 365 for business applications. “The vast majority of Cabinet-level agencies are moving or have moved to Office 365 in whole or in part,” Adams said.

While Office 365 is compatible with XP, the user experience will diminish after April 8, according to the product’s software requirements.

More companies use Office 365 than Google Apps for Web-based email, according to an October 2013 Forrester Research study. The survey found that one in five firms were emailing in the cloud, with Microsoft's client grasping 14 percent market share and Google at 9 percent. 

"It is critical that federal agencies modernize now to avoid burdensome costs and ensure a smooth transition," Adams said. The potential dangers of not doing so include greater chances of viruses and other malicious software finding their way into a machine. Also, if a bug is found, the only way to eradicate it might be halting agency operations for a system upgrade, according to security specialists. 

Federal XP holdouts typically own systems that are incompatible with contemporary software, or they have installed other tools for catching and patching future bugs. White House officials say they do not anticipate trouble when security help ends. 

Microsoft, for a variable fee, will continue supporting the agencies that miss next month's deadline, company officials said. 

Also, the company is providing agencies discounts on new products to compensate for the loss of free XP support. 

The offers include, according to Adams, $350 back, per device, when a government agency purchases a machine running Windows 8 Pro or 8.1 Pro, and $50 off for each Windows 8 Pro or 8.1 Pro device, when agencies enter new license agreements or renewals.

(Image via Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com)

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