Microsoft tempts XP laggards with $84 upgrade discount

With one year before XP's forced retirement, Microsoft offers 15% off Windows 8, Office 2013 combo

Microsoft today kicked off a new promotion aimed at Windows XP customers, who have just one year to ditch the 12-year-old OS before it's retired from support.

Small- and medium-sized businesses still running Windows XP and Office 2003 -- the latter also will be retired a year from today, on April 8, 2014 -- can purchase licenses to Windows 8 Pro and Office 2013 Standard at a 15% discount, Microsoft said on a promotional website.

Caveats apply: Customers must be running XP Professional, the Windows 8 Pro and Office 2013 Standard licenses must be purchased as a package via Microsoft's Open License program, and the deal is capped at 100 licenses for each. The discount is good through June 30.

Microsoft pointed customers to a list of partners who will offer the Open License discounts.

On its Open License website, Microsoft quoted $188 for each Windows 8 Pro license, and $373 for each Office 2013 Standard license, for a total of $561. The 15% discount would lower each Windows-Office combo by $84 to $477.

Microsoft also again banged the XP retirement drum today in a pair of lengthly blog posts, which included links to documents and tools designed to assist migration. Those blogs also explained the impending end-of-life, and repeated well-rehearsed reasons why customers should make the move.

In those blogs, Microsoft also mentioned Windows 7 as a destination for XP users, tacitly acknowledging the reality that most firms have moved from XP to the proven Windows 7. Few companies, analysts have said, are interested in Windows 8, in part because they have either just wrapped up migrations to Windows 7 or are in the process of doing so.

But because Windows 8 Pro licenses include downgrade rights to earlier versions of the OS, including Windows 7, businesses that purchase the former can instead install the latter, assuming they have installation media or Windows 7 images at hand.

Microsoft faces a tough job as it tries to push customers off Windows XP. According to statistics from analytics company Net Applications, 39% of all personal computers, and 42% of all Windows PCs, ran XP last month.

The long decline in Windows XP's usage share has also stalled since the first of the year, slowing to a fifth that of the past 12 months' average.

Projections using Net Applications' numbers now suggest that XP will still power a third of all Windows-based systems when the 2014 date ticks by.

After April 8, 2014, Microsoft will not supply Windows XP with security patches, putting PCs still running it at risk from attack. The only exception: Enterprises which have purchased custom support plans. However, Microsoft has boosted prices of those plans. Some corporations have been quoted $1 million for the first year of after-retirement support for 5,000 XP systems, $2 million for the second year and $5 million for the third.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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