Apache helped 3000s live to serve
Make backups, but a CSLT is just as vital

For sunset OS rides, the market decides

SunsetAlthough Windows systems have been a popular alternative to the HP 3000 for migrators, they do have one thing in common. The most commonplace version of the Microsoft OS is on notice of an end-date. And just like the 3000's, this deadline is one the vendor has kept extending.

Windows XP doesn't run enterprises the way that Windows Server 2004 or 2008 do, but this desktop client OS has had staying power to rival the HP 3000's MPE/iX. Microsoft released the Embedded version of XP at the end of 2001. HP's 7.0 version of MPE/iX was rolled out the same year. Microsoft intended to cut off XP's lifespan in 2011, then in 2014. The latest announcement is that the XP users who have the OS embedded in things like kiosks now have five more years.

XP Embedded: Born December 2001. Support expired, October 2017.

Riding into the sunset is a strategy that makes good sense at some point for every technology. But Microsoft -- which reported its first-ever loss last quarter -- is having a 3000-like experience with XP. In spite of having a good alternative that's even code-compatible in Windows 7, half its customers run an OS that was designed back when HP was still rolling out new 3000s.

Just like Windows XP, MPE/iX won't expire. It's the one fact that a homesteading customer, or a slow migrator, can count upon. What works today is a good bet for tomorrow, unless security issues rise up. Since Microsoft's product is a Windows client OS, XP has some very serious need for security updates. An OS like MPE, with its Priv Mode designs, doesn't have the same security challenges.

The distinction which really matters is that the vendor remains on the game field of XP. Microsoft is still creating patches for free support, just like HP used to do for its enterprise environments. (Now those are a for-fee element to managing things like HP-UX and OpenVMS.) Some experts in the Windows world think there's a little chance that the XP lifespan might be extended. Ed Bott wrote last week on ZDNet about the desktop versions of XP, non-embedded:

They could also choose to extend support for Windows XP again. But I don't see that happening, at least not by any significant amount. I could see them extending XP's support life to match the end of OEM sales via downgrade rights—from April 2014 to the end of that year—but sooner or later they have to nail the coffin shut.

Existing copies of Windows XP will not expire, of course. But OEM and volume license copies are tied to the hardware they were first installed on and can't be transferred to new systems. So by the end of 2015 you will no longer be able to buy any version of Windows that includes downgrade rights to XP. That's when XP finally rides off into the sunset for good.

Security patches for MPE/iX have already ridden off, but this was an OS which rarely had a security alert compared to the half-dozen per month which HP-UX still gets. The MPE sunset might well be 2027, when on Dec. 31 the system's calendar rolls back to the year 1900. 

But whenever a question arises about how any company could be using software so far "out of date," it's useful to point out that about half of the world's PCs operate using XP. It's an environment already nearing 11 years old, with its lifespan now estimated at 16 years and perhaps counting.