Get Ready To Say Goodbye To Windows XP

This is the last day Microsoft will install the Windows XP operating system on new computers. XP was introduced in 2001 and outlived its successor Windows Vista. It's now being supplanted by Windows 7. Todd Bishop, of TechFlash.com, talks to Steve Inskeep about the end of Microsoft XP.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're gathered here this morning to say goodbye to a fond friend - maybe not a friend, but a companion to most of us who use computers. Today is the last day that Microsoft will install the Windows XP operating system on new computers. XP was introduced in 2001 - now dying at the age of nine. That's actually a very long time for a computer program or anything in the digital world to stick around. Windows XP even outlived an intended successor, Windows Vista. Now it finally really is being supplanted by something called Windows 7.

We're going to talk about this with Todd Bishop. He's managing editor of TechFlash.com, and he covers Microsoft. He joined us at member station KUOW in Seattle, Washington.

Welcome back to the program.

Mr. TODD BISHOP (Managing Editor, TechFlash.com): Oh, thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: How did Windows XP last so long, particularly since so many people seem to hate it?

Mr. BISHOP: Well, on the one hand, it is a tribute to its staying power. You know, XP has been around since the early 2000s. But it's a testament, as well, to the fact that Microsoft really dropped the ball on its operating system. Windows Vista, the successor to XP, just took a ton of time to develop, and it put Microsoft in a really tough position. And that's why XP is still around, is that people just did not embrace Vista even after it came out.

INSKEEP: You know, I'm just looking to my left at a computer in this studio, and the screensaver says Windows XP. This program is everywhere. I bet there are a lot of people who use it every day who really don't even know the name. It's just there. You don't even recognize it.

Mr. BISHOP: That's right. It's almost like a utility. You know, it's just -it's sort of in the background, and you don't think about it. Microsoft is actually in a difficult position because of that. The company really needs to lift its profile in some ways in the tech industry, and at this point, its mainstay product, Windows, is just sort of that background program.

INSKEEP: Okay. So Windows 7 is out. It's been out a while. Windows XP ceases to become an option for people buying computer programs. And this raises another question, Todd Bishop, because this is one of the relatively few times in recent months that we've even talked about Microsoft. They don't get the headlines they used to get.

Mr. BISHOP: I think the perception - at least in Silicon Valley, in particular - is that Microsoft is the Jimmy Carter of the tech industry.

INSKEEP: Ooh.

Mr. BISHOP: It's that former leader who's no longer in power. And, you know, you look back on his tenure and you realize, hey, maybe he really wasn't so bad. Just last week, Facebook had an announcement where Mark Zuckerberg partnered with Microsoft's Bing search engine, and he talked about how great Microsoft was. And you never would've heard that a decade ago. And it's because Microsoft is not feared in the Valley to the extent that Google is these days.

INSKEEP: Well, if you're Microsoft, you don't want people talking about how great you were. You'd rather they be talking about how great you are.

Mr. BISHOP: That's absolutely right, and Microsoft would definitely dispute the Jimmy Carter analogy. Microsoft is trying to stay relevant. They just released - and are planning to release - a new mobile phone operating system to try and catch up with Google's Android and Apple's iPhone.

INSKEEP: Don't they still have billions and billions of dollars in income to invest in things like that?

Mr. BISHOP: They absolutely do, and that gets back to Windows. The primary source of the company's profits, around $13 billion last fiscal year, was still Windows. The question is in five, 10 years, is that still going to be the case? And that's why Microsoft needs to do better in areas such as mobile phones.

INSKEEP: What happens when Microsoft is competing for talent against what are, at the moment, hotter-seeming companies like - well, Apple would be the obvious choice, or even Google?

Mr. BISHOP: It's funny you should bring that up. I got a chance to hear Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer talk about that last week. He contends that Microsoft still gets a large majority of the recruits that it goes after. But you've seen something interesting in Microsoft's backyard up here in Seattle, Facebook, Zynga, Hulu and even Salesforce.com have established engineering offices up here in Seattle just within the past few months trying to poach talent for Microsoft. And certainly, they see a vulnerability there because Microsoft certainly isn't the company with the cachet that it used to have.

INSKEEP: Well, Microsoft XP is gone, a solemn occasion, but the rest of us must move on. And Todd Bishop, thanks for giving us a sense of how we might do that.

Mr. BISHOP: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: He's managing editor of TechFlash.com.

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