Windows XP is officially slated for retirement in under 500 days.
What's that mean? Well, for starters, it means that companies that have held off are beginning to migrate to a new Operating System - and they're off to a slow start. Microsoft will end support for XP on April 8, 2014, but that doesn't mean it'll blow up - millions of systems will continue to use it well after the deadline - but software developers aren't going to wait around. For those with custom software built to run under XP, migration to a new OS will understandably be slower than for those running off-the-shelf products. Unfortunately for Redmond, they aren't likely to be migrating to Windows 8. Instead, they're moving to the 2009 OS, Windows 7.
Microsoft apparently had planned for users to move from XP to Windows Vista; a plan that was roundly rejected due to Redmond's failure to incorporate adequate driver support, among other shortcomings - the OS was widely considered to be buggy and slow as well, though it's apparently fine for low-track uses such as blogging or web-surfing. By contrast, Windows 7 deployment underwent a rapid takeoff and is unlikely to slow down any time soon.
Interestingly, corporations and government agencies that spent a decade or more in the Windows NT OS shifted to XP, and have been in that system for a decade or more. Don't imagine that they'll shift to Windows 8, as the impetus behind Windows 7 is well underway - and Windows 8 is being received about as enthusiastically as the Vista OS, which hit its apogee some three years ago with a total PC market-share of less than 20%; well less than half of the XP share even now (Vista today is less than 6%, and still spiralling downward). Basically, their choices are to upgrade to the villified Vista or to the much superior Windows 7 - either of which may require some minor hardware modification in addition to the OS licensing costs. Given that, the choice is obvious. Say goodbye to Vista. And who wants to pay another round of licensing fees to jump into the unproven Windows 8 environment on top of it all?
Microsoft claims that some 40 million systems have Windows 8, and that may even be true - if you take into account the unsold units pre-loaded with the OS; at present, in the real world, Windows 8 is running on just over 1% of all PC systems. At this rate, it may have trouble catching up to the relatively dismal Vista numbers. Part of that may be due to the interface, though some analysts lay blame at the door of current economic conditions. The latter seems less likely, given that 8 can be downloaded for around $40, while 7 runs around $150.
Compounding the situation is that Windows 8 comes in two flavors: one for the PC base (which still displays a tablet-like interface until you get under the hood and switch it) and its compact RT version for tablets and phones. Microsoft's Surface tablet, of course, runs RT, and the company is pledging to support it for at least four years. That seems a bit daunting, but it's worth remembering that the two-year-old iPad isn't upgradeable to iOS6, so tablet users: pick your poison.
It seems clear that the enterprise platforms will be Windows 7-based for the foreseeable future.