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Microsoft to Discontinue Support for Windows XP & Office 2003: Time to Upgrade Your Office Computer System?

It’s well known that many law firms are resistant to change. In my experience, this is especially true when it comes to the operating system they use on their office computers. Of course, in that regard, they are hardly alone. Indeed, according to a recent March 2012 report by NetMarketShare nearly 47 percent of computer users still use Windows XP which remains as the most popular operating system in the world. By comparison, about 37 percent of computer users use Windows 7; approximately 8 percent of computer users work on computers using Windows Vista; and about 6 percent of computer users use Mac OS X 10.

Despite the operating system’s continued popularity, Microsoft announced in a blog post on April 9th that they will be discontinuing support for both Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 in 2014. Microsoft explained the decision by stating:

Modern users demand technologies that fit their personal workstyle and allow them to stay productive anywhere anytime, while businesses have an ever increasing need to protect data and ensure security, compliance and manageability. It is in a company’s – and its employees’ – best interest to take advantage of the modern Windows and Office software that is designed with these needs in mind.

Although support will continue through 2014, Microsoft urges users to update now. So, what options do you have if you decide you cannot afford to wait out the clock?

Mac OS X 10

You can switch to a Mac. Personally, I’d resisted buying an Apple computer for years, but finally made the switch recently when my third PC in nearly as many years went kaput. Sure, PCs are cheaper, but sometimes it turns out that you aren’t just paying less, you’re also receiving less. Similarly, in part because of their smaller market share, Macs are generally thought of less attractive targets for makers of malware, trojans and other nasty cyber threats. Of course, no operating system is immune from viruses as the recent FakeFlash malware demonstrated.

Also, the lack of familiarity with the operating system can be a little disheartening. Initially, because I’d developed a high level of proficiency in navigating Windows-based operating systems, it was frustrating for me to learn a whole new operating system. Thankfully, Mac OS X 10 has proven to be easy to use and easy to learn. If you’ve been tempted, now may be the perfect time to give Mac a shot.

Windows 7

Of course, just because you are updating your operating system you don’t have to switch computer systems altogether. Sticking with Windows would allow you to continue to use the same computers you’ve been using all along. Besides, although Mac has historically offered stronger security than a PC, Microsoft has continued to beef up the security in their latest operating system, Windows 7, which has been widely praised for both its ease of use and improved security. As a result, upgrading to Windows 7 is another attractive option. If you are concerned about the ability to use certain Windows XP-based programs on your computer, you’ll be happy to learn that Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate each offer the ability to install programs in “Windows XP Mode” in order to use those programs on a window on your computer.

Windows 8

A final option is to wait for Windows 8 which Microsoft has indicated will see a 2012 release date. The new operating system has been described as a complete redesign of the Windows operating system intended to function across both touch screen devices and traditional PCs. It’s unclear if this new operating system will prove to be as “new and improved” and “easy to use” as Microsoft claims it will be until it has been out and about for awhile. As a result, it’s hard to predict at this point whether it is worth waiting for the new operating system. After all, Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10 are already both quite popular and will both be around for some time to come.

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