Old Versions of Windows Never Die

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My column this week is about the tenth anniversary of Windows XP—and how it’s managed, against all odds, to remain the world’s most popular operating system, and why that makes some people unhappy.

It’s true, of course, that XP’s dominance is degrading. Some numbers are starting to show Windows 7 overtaking it, although more sources still have XP on top. (And in the corporate world, it’s still utterly pervasive.) Someday, using Windows XP will be unusual.

(MORE: Why Windows XP Just Won’t Go Away)

But will XP ever just go away, period? Maybe, but it’ll take eons. Once companies install Microsoft operating systems, some of them do everything in their power to stick with what they’ve got. And there’s no version of Windows so ancient that it’s not running on some computer, somewhere. XP will be alive in 2020, the year that Microsoft says it’ll stop letting corporate customers “downgrade” to it.

Over at my site, Technologizer, the stats for this year to date show that 52 percent of visitors who use Windows arrived at the site using a Windows 7 PC. Thirty-three percent of them used XP. Fourteen percent, Vista.

That adds up to 99 percent of the visits to the site that have come from Windows PCs–almost all of them, but not all of them. Under one percent of Windows-using visitors have run another version of the OS. Here’s the breakdown:

  • More than 11,000 people arrived via PCs running Windows Server 2003.
  • About two thousand ran Windows 2000, a version I still miss.
  • A hundred and forty used Windows 98.
  • Thirty-one poor souls used Windows Me.
  • Three have ran Windows 95.
  • And one guy or gal–I’d love to meet this person, shake his or her hand, and then ask “WHY?”–was using Windows 3.1, a version that theoretically became obsolete in 1995.

For some people, any version of Windows remains too newfangled a product to trust. Earlier this week, I parked at a garage in San Francisco, and when I returned to pay and retrieve my car, I noticed that the cashier was using parking-garage software that ran on DOS, Windows’ predecessor. As far as I could tell, it worked great. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the garage will still be using DOS in 2031—assuming that it’s still in business and there are still such things as PCs capable of running Microsoft operating systems.

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