The Week Ahead in Business: XP's sunset could mean dark times for Windows

April 5, 2014 

There's better than a 1-in-4 chance the software you use to run your desktop computer will be set adrift next week ahead. Where those users moor their operating systems next could indicate the next cycle in personal computing.

In March, 27 percent of desktop computers in America ran Microsoft Windows XP, according to NetMarketShare. On Tuesday, Microsoft Corp. will end its support of the software. After 12 years, the company will no longer provide security patches or technical assistance. As Microsoft itself warns users, "If you continue to use Windows XP ... your computer will still work, but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses."

With technical support of Windows XP ending, more than a quarter of desktop computer owners may be in the market for an upgrade or an all-out replacement of their software and hardware. Microsoft investors hope for an upgrade to Windows 8. That would keep the users as Microsoft customers, helping reinvigorate the company's beleaguered desktop operating sys

tems business. In the past quarter, revenue from the Windows franchise fell 3 percent, thanks to the continued weakness in the consumer PC market. But Windows computing software remains Microsoft's second-largest source of sales.

Computer users are evolving fast. Tablets and smart phones have provided strong head winds to the traditional desktop personal computer business.

As a consequence, Microsoft's traditional software bulkhead has been buffeted.

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