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Should Microsoft Be Required To Extend Support For Windows XP? 650

Posted by timothy
from the here-you-hold-the-thumbscrews dept.
An anonymous reader writes "If Windows XP were a photocopier, Microsoft would have a duty to deal with competitors who sought to provide aftermarket support. A new article in the Michigan Law Review argues that Microsoft should be held to the same duty, and should be legally obligated to help competitors who wish to continue to provide security updates for the aging operating system, even if that means allowing them to access and use Windows XP's sourcecode."
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Should Microsoft Be Required To Extend Support For Windows XP?

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  • by glasshole (3569269) on Monday April 07, 2014 @01:31AM (#46681173)
    Photocopier vendors do not open the controller software up to competitors / vendors who provide support. They just give them specs for replacement parts. Do you force Apple to let 'competitors' support OS X 10.5 on G5 Macs? Do you force Google to let competitors still support Google Wave?
    • by flux (5274) on Monday April 07, 2014 @01:38AM (#46681193) Homepage

      Actually Google already gave the Wave to the Apache foundation, so I guess they're set from that point of view.

      That aside, I don't think a company should be forced to provide any level of support for a ten-year-old product. They could even be up-front about ("this product will not be supported for longer than five years") and people still wouldn't care. Well, until the day came.

      • by qwijibo (101731) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:16AM (#46681355)

        With software, and by extension the hardware it requires, the lifespan is incredibly short compared with almost every other product out there. I'd like to see more companies release the software, code, etc. to the public domain as a formal way of walking away from it, but leaving customers with something more than "gee, must suck to be you" for support.

        Borland released old versions of tools like Turbo C when it was no longer relevant commercially. Even though I paid for those tools when they were commercially relevant, I always liked the spirit of giving away old software. There's no cost to releasing it to the public domain. There are plenty of third world countries learning on and using technology that we throw away. There's a benefit to those people having software and learning technology but there's absolutely no money in it.

        There are fringe cases where ongoing support is needed for really old systems. For example, I've been in machine shops with computers that drive CNC machines that run on 386's under DOS. As long as the machines keep working, it's a valuable part of running their business. Today it's nearly impossible to find replacement parts, but smarter shop owners bought extra pieces when they were disappearing from the market long ago. If something breaks, these people are willing to pay a premium to people who can help them. They know it's not a great situation, but it's much better than spending hundreds of thousands to replace everything that depends on old systems.

        Proprietary interfaces, boards and drivers that integrate machinery with computers are the legacy components that makes it hard to replace these old systems. If they used an RS232 interface for low bandwidth data and Ethernet for higher bandwidth, it wouldn't be hard to reverse engineer what's going on and write software that runs on modern systems that could serve as a replacement. But a proprietary interface that requires an ISA slot and custom cables means there is no way to modernize that doesn't require new custom hardware.

        The space shuttle is another good example of what happens when something is decades into its service life, but has components that were never expected to live that long. NASA can't just load everything on an iPad and hope each crew member bringing their own is enough fault tolerance and stands up to the extreme environment of space.

        XP isn't all that old, as evidenced by the number of users who don't want to get off of it. It makes sense that Microsoft wants to get rid of it - there's no price for a support contract that would make it mutually beneficial to keep tech support trained on it and developers dedicated to working on it. But at the same time, Microsoft is not the kind of company that is likely to release it to the public domain either. The last thing they would want is an open source community picking it up, keeping it current with security patches and making it work on new hardware. That's the antithesis of the forced upgrade model.

    • I can tell you, I would have been happy if Apple had open sourced their Rosetta support. It would have been nice if they'd open sourced their Classic support. They could have released carbon as an open source project. Instead those things just disappeared, you can't even buy them.

      Of course, legally they are not required to support those things now, but I would favor a law change that would require it.
      • by Y-Crate (540566)

        Rosetta was licensed from Transitive, which was eventually bought by IBM. Apple didn't own it, so they couldn't open-source it.

        I'm willing to bet that Classic drew on an ancient codebase with bits of licensed code mixed in. Getting it in a state where it could be open-sourced was probably more trouble than it was worth.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:56AM (#46681507) Journal
        Apple would have continued to ship Rosetta, but IBM bought Transitive (from whom it was licensed) and was still annoyed at the publicity that Apple had given them in the switch from PowerPC to Intel, so decided to return the favour and refused to license Rosetta for a new version of OS X. Apple tried to spin this in a positive way ('look how hip we are, stopping supporting that old crap!') but it didn't really work.
    • by tlambert (566799)

      Photocopier vendors do not open the controller software up to competitors / vendors who provide support. They just give them specs for replacement parts.

      Do you force Apple to let 'competitors' support OS X 10.5 on G5 Macs? Do you force Google to let competitors still support Google Wave?

      The paper (if you read it) claims that the requirement should be enforced based on the Microsoft having monopolistic power in the marketplace. Apple doesn't wield monopolistic power in the marketplace for desktop operating systems.

    • by Cenan (1892902)

      The problem is a bit more complex than that. Microsoft has not really been all that informative about their end-of-life policy for their operations systems, and it is certainly nowhere to be found in the EULA or the contracts they happily signed for $$$ with the companies, that are now in a pickle because of it.

      Further, Microsoft can support Windows XP, they just want more $$$ to do it (so, if they can do it for one company, and the goods they're selling are infinite, why can't they for all the rest?). If t

      • by will_die (586523) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:29AM (#46681411) Homepage
        Microsoft has been really clear on their end of life policy for probably a decade if not more. The only way to say they have not is if you say all those increases in time they have given are an indication of unclearness.
        However with your definition of $100 USD, cost to upgrade OS from XP to Windows 7, as being "an arm and a leg" not to sure about the rest you wrote.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @01:33AM (#46681177)
    Nah just have copyright last for 14 years max.

    Then Microsoft will have to actually build stuff significantly better than XP rather than disappointing stuff like Windows 8.

    You think progress would be slow because the shortened/reduced monopolies would reduce investment into innovation? Well Microsoft has spent billions and what we got is stuff like Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

    A shorter copyright term would definitely "help them focus" on innovating rather than extending or leveraging the reach of their existing monopolies don't you think?
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:20AM (#46681363)

      Shorter copyright would actually not hinder but force innovation to happen. Right now, you can invent something and if it turns out to be "gold", you can milk it forever. No need whatsoever to ever invent anything again.

      That's supposed to spur innovation? Could someone show me how?

      • by Camael (1048726) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:52AM (#46681499)

        Right now, you can invent something and if it turns out to be "gold", you can milk it forever. ...That's supposed to spur innovation? Could someone show me how?

        I agree with you, and its not. Copyright extension was a blatant cash grab engineered by a corrupt legislature to rob the public through the Mickey Mouse Act [wikipedia.org] .

        I suppose we should be thankful there is a limit of any kind. Actual quote :-

        Actually, Sonny wanted the term of copyright protection to last forever. I am informed by staff that such a change would violate the Constitution.

      • Shorter copyright would actually not hinder but force innovation to happen. Right now, you can invent something and if it turns out to be "gold", you can milk it forever. No need whatsoever to ever invent anything again.

        That's supposed to spur innovation? Could someone show me how?

        Imagine living in a world where half the population is illiterate and the majority are required to work labor from dawn till dusk, where free time is scarce and every single moment spent pursuing "flights of fancy" instead of pursuing "real work" has a significant cost to the individuals involved.

        Copyright was created for such an environment. Did quite well by us in moving beyond that way of living. Now that a high school student has access to publishing tools that will reach a global audience, it's just

    • The copyright running out on XP wouldn't solve the problem of a lack of support.

      It also brings into question, which version of XP? Is XP SP2 a "new work" and thus an extension of copyright? Or is SP1 out of copyright but SP2 is not?

      What a horrible situation, you could legally make copies of the original release of XP, but not install any service packs or updates.

      Yea, THAT would be good for the Internet. :)

  • no. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by globaljustin (574257) <justinglobal AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 07, 2014 @01:37AM (#46681187) Homepage Journal

    I am a critic of M$ but I do not think they should be required by law.

    Only in the case of some sort of long-term contract that is still in effect, that mentions specifically updating software until a time in the future...unless that is the case.

    These laws are complex and the photocopier example is interesting.

    I am against artificial scarcity for sure...that's one reason I hate M$...but I think this may cross the line. If M$ wants to let XP die then they have the right to refuse to make vital trade secret info available to people who want to keep it alive.

    I have a feeling the photocopier example is more about purposefully creating artificial scarcity. It's not quite analogous b/c it's an actual machine not software.

    I'm not giving M$ a pass. Its about property rights. If people love XP so much (i remember it was the only windows version i could really get work done using...would still choose it today) then the community will come up with a solution...which should be legal to give away for free.

    • If M$ wants to let XP die then they have the right to refuse to make vital trade secret info available to people who want to keep it alive.

      Hard for me to believe there's any vital trade secret info in Windows

    • by tlambert (566799)

      I am a critic of M$ but I do not think they should be required by law.

      Only in the case of some sort of long-term contract that is still in effect, that mentions specifically updating software until a time in the future...unless that is the case.

      These laws are complex and the photocopier example is interesting.

      A potentially more interesting example is replacement auto parts, which automobile manufacturers are required by law to stock for 10 years after the last date of manufacture so that owners of the vehicles can repair them or have them repaired by a third party. Since the last ship date for Windows XP was the last contractual date that Microsoft allowed vendors to bundle it with new computers, that would give them about an 8 year support requirement for "replacement parts". Note that the automobile example

    • Re:no. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sjames (1099) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:13AM (#46681343) Homepage

      An interesting angle though, MS is in the process of officially declaring that they have no further commercial interest in XP whatsoever. They won't sell you a license even if you beg them. It's a little hard to call it 'valuable intellectual property' with a strait face when they refuse to derive any value from it.

      Not really sure how much to make of that, just throwing it out there.

  • Depends (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fredprado (2569351) on Monday April 07, 2014 @01:38AM (#46681191)
    Microsoft or any software company should be forced to provide full support for their commercial products for as long as they hold copyright over them.
    • I like this concept.

      However, it would probably drive the companies bankrupt.

      (Imagine supporting win 3.1, win 98, win me, win nt, win vista, win xp, win 7, and win 8 all at the same time because they share copyrighted code.

      • Re:Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hawguy (1600213) on Monday April 07, 2014 @01:51AM (#46681243)

        I like this concept.

        However, it would probably drive the companies bankrupt.

        (Imagine supporting win 3.1, win 98, win me, win nt, win vista, win xp, win 7, and win 8 all at the same time because they share copyrighted code.

        Well, they could sign away the copyright and release the source code for any software they no longer want to support.

      • Let them be let off the requirement to support (excepting for other contractual arrangements) when they relinquish copyright.

      • by Cenan (1892902)

        Well, then don't release a "new" system every other year. There is no reason we all couldn't still be on Windows 3.11.7000, except MS renamed it and sold it again and again and again.

        • Great, that way they would still have to support XP for all those that didn't want to upgrade and we didn't have that argument now in the first place.

      • by mysidia (191772)

        However, it would probably drive the companies bankrupt.

        It should suffice to retain copyright but make publicly available: complete machine-readable compilable corresponding source code, with a grant of permission for any third party to publish patches, compile binaries, and redistribute them after taking reasonable steps to ensure they distribute them only to lawful possessors of a copy of the original software.

      • by sjames (1099)

        All they have to do is formally release the source into the public domain. That would end their obligation.

        • by Kaenneth (82978)

          Because no new exploits that require immediate patches, with no central authority to distribute said patches, would be found in that released source code...

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      For corporations, copyright lasts 110 years.
      That strikes me as unreasonable.

      Yes, both the length of the copyright and requiring someone to provide support for that long.

    • Unless fredprado steps up and explains why copyright should be linked to support this comment is not insightful 5.
      • Re:Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fredprado (2569351) on Monday April 07, 2014 @09:35AM (#46683533)
        At your orders, my good sir. Copyright is an artificial restriction imposed by the government to protect the developer. It has its reasons to be, but like all rules imposed by law a balance should be met between the good and the harm it does.

        Copyright was never meant to be used as a means to make a product or service unavailable. Quite the opposite. If a company decides to sabotage their own product by either refusing to sell it, making it prohibitively expensive or denying support and forbidding others from providing this support it should lose this right.
  • An Alternative Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Monday April 07, 2014 @01:42AM (#46681207) Homepage Journal

    Personally, I think they are going about this the wrong way. The Gov't should be sending Death Squads to kill all members of any household still running XP, or running any version of IE less than 10. Brutal? Maybe. But, boy will it do wonders for the social lives of us Web Developers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by hawguy (1600213)

      Personally, I think they are going about this the wrong way. The Gov't should be sending Death Squads to kill all members of any household still running XP, or running any version of IE less than 10. Brutal? Maybe. But, boy will it do wonders for the social lives of us Web Developers.

      Of course, it would also put a lot of web designers out of a job if they no longer need to spend hours working around quirks in older browsers, so be careful what you ask for.

    • by tlambert (566799)

      Personally, I think they are going about this the wrong way. The Gov't should be sending Death Squads to kill all members of any household still running XP, or running any version of IE less than 10. Brutal? Maybe. But, boy will it do wonders for the social lives of us Web Developers.

      I might agree, if the versions of IE eligible for that treatment also included greater than or equal to 10...

  • by epyT-R (613989)

    It would be nice if they moved it to public domain and released source. However, I think limiting copyright would be good enough. Then they'd have to offer something better than free xp if they want more money. This upgrade treadmill the software industry has everyone on motivates them to do exactly nothing beneficial to the users giving them money.

    • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:33AM (#46681423)

      The problem is, exactly, that it's getting harder and harder to justify upgrading your OS. It worked up to XP, but from there on ... but let's take a look down the MS OS timeline.

      3.11 -> 95. A no brainer. 95 was leaps and bounds ahead of 3.11, which was at best a GUI to DOS.
      95 -> 98. Finally networking that really works and doesn't need you to resort so some kind of third party tool to actually USE your network.
      98 -> 98SE. Stability increase, far, far better support for various bits of hardware.
      98SE -> ME. Erh... Well, let's be honest here, there were some ... hey look, is that George Clooney?
      98SE -> 2k. The compatibility of the 9x line combined with the stability and the security from the NT line.
      2k -> XP. Where 2k was "a business system that got some touch from a private user system", XP was where the private user became home again. 2k was a bit sterile, XP now offered everything they needed. Much better USB support, WLan out of the box, a much smoother user experience altogether and near perfect stability (outside of driver woes).

      And that's where the "must have OSs" end, pretty much, from Joe Randomuser's point of view. He needed 95 for "true" 32bit stuff. He needed 98(SE) for easily working networking. He needed 2k for complete USB support. He needed XP for WLan support. But what would he need Vista/7/8 for? Nothing he could possibly want to plug into his computer has a problem with XP. Nothing he could want to run has an intrinsic problem with XP (yes, some newer games want a DX version that MS deliberately did not make available for XP).

      What will in the near future possibly convince people to move away from XP and towards 7 or 8 (or, probably, by the time it really matters, 9) is 64bit support, something that didn't really work out well for XP, and about the only thing where I can say with a straight face that 7 trumps XP in every way, from OS itself to drivers. But to most "normal" users, a limit of 3.something GB isn't that big a deal, considering that most of the software they'd want to run is suffering from exactly the same problem, since it's 32bit soft.

      • 7 is a nice upgrade over XP, if you don't see or understand that, I'm not sure what I can say, 5 years on, that will help you understand.

        Besides proper 64 bit support, the seamless way it installs and updates drivers and software for almost anything you plug into it is vastly improved over XP.

        XP still wants a floppy disk for drivers needed during install, it was developed in another time, the world has moved on.

        I have played with 8, it doesn't do enough over 7 to make the upgrade worthwhile for me, but I su

        • by sjbe (173966)

          7 is a nice upgrade over XP, if you don't see or understand that, I'm not sure what I can say, 5 years on, that will help you understand.

          If you say so. I'm typing this on a Windows 7 machine and running my older XP machine in a virtual machine. Frankly Windows 7 does not have a single feature I need that I did not have with XP. NOT ONE. I know I am not alone either. I'm sure it's better here and there under the hood but frankly not in any way that was causing me problems. Plus it requires a much faster machine to accomplish the same tasks I already could do.

          Besides proper 64 bit support, the seamless way it installs and updates drivers and software for almost anything you plug into it is vastly improved over XP.

          64 bit doesn't provide me any noticeable benefit as an end user that I can disc

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's a damn business opportunity for anyone with business sense.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scream at the sky (989144) on Monday April 07, 2014 @01:49AM (#46681235) Homepage
    It's 12 years old for crying out loud, let it die.

    That's like arguing that Nokia should still be providing support and software upgrades for the 6100.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]
    • It might be a sound argument if 27% of the world's cellphones were Nokia 6100s (the estimated percentage of the world's computers still running XP).
    • You can actually still get parts for old Nokia phones. Not from Nokia, of course...

  • I'm trying to come up a car analogy for this. Is it like typical manufacturers defects, where it can be fixed under warranty for a limited number of years, or is it like a safety recall, where there is no expiration?

    • It's where some third party company pumps out spare parts and addons long after the original maker of the car stopped supplying anything. It's not so uncommon actually, considering there are quite a few car enthusiasts that enjoy modifying and remodeling their cars. There's a whole industry that does nothing but that, actually.

  • No other publicly available product has ever had such a long support duration as Windows XP has had.

    Microsoft should be under no further obligation to its customers with respect to Windows XP.

    However, if individual customers are willing to _pay_ a subscription for further support from Microsoft, they should be allowed to do so.

  • by FaxeTheCat (1394763) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:02AM (#46681301)
    The case is based on false assumptions.
    Microsoft still provide support for Windows XP to those who are willig to pay for it: http://arstechnica.com/informa... [arstechnica.com]
    Case closed.
    • But why wouldn't Microsoft release security updates for XP if they're going to developing them anyway? Hell, I know some people who'd probably be willing to pay $100 a year (privately) to not have to go through the motions of upgrading to Win7.

      • Because the point is that they want to stop supporting it. Making users feel the pain for getting upgrades is one way to do it. If the patches are free, the problem continues.
        And no, I simply do not believe that people would pay $100 per year for patches to XP. They may say that, but when the bill comes, they will not.
    • The case would be closed if someone could open up a competing business. Else we're talking a monopoly situation where the monopolist can (and obviously does) charge through the nose.

      Extortion is what comes to my mind looking at that business model, not support.

  • The pdf seems to completely ignore that in the past, security researchers have written patches for Microsoft operating systems as a stopgap until MS could get its shit together and issue their own security updates.

    I also take issue with the comparison to cars.
    If you want to drive a car on the road, it requires a safety inspection, no matter how old it is.
    WinXP, even patched, is the equivalent of driving around a rust bucket with bad wiring and bald tires.
    It's an accident waiting to happen.

    About the only thi

  • by Barlo_Mung_42 (411228) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:12AM (#46681337) Homepage

    MS is trying to push people off XP. There are other alternatives after all. Many of them are even free. How bad does it make Linux and Chrome look if they can't compete with an 12+ year old OS that MS is actively trying to push people off of?

  • One can argue that an OS is infrastructure, and not a product. Like water pipes and electrical wires, other services depend on them. Thus, an OS is not comparable to radios or clothes.

    One is not expected to dig up their house and start over if a company decides nobody is allowed to support the existing wires or pipes bought from them.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:25AM (#46681383) Journal

    Microsoft should provide support for Windows XP if, and ONLY if they have a contractual obligation to do so, or they find it economically beneficial to their shareholders to continue this support. If neither are true, then they shouldn't.

    -jcr

  • Define Support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by enter to exit (1049190) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:26AM (#46681389)
    You'll need to define what support means.They could provide support by turning your xp install into win7 with a xp boot screen. They won't necessarily provide the kind of support you want

    No Linux distro provides decades of support either, you're just upgraded to the latest packages and that might as easily break things in the same way xp to win7 might.
  • MS has offered upgrades at a reduced cost, it has supported it for about a decade, if people hold onto it, they do so at their own peril. Who holds onto a photocopier for ten years and expects spare parts? Yes I own an old laser printer and sadly, if it breaks I don't expect to have spare parts available. The devil inside me says that people are also holding on to XP because many machines could be activated with the same code, or even without a code in the case of many laptops supplied with a restore CD.

  • by MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) on Monday April 07, 2014 @04:45AM (#46681879)

    i remember when XP was released and WGA ( or it's predecessor ) was new and people were worried that MS would shutdown their servers and make it impossible to reinstall in some cases.

    MS promised that they would release a key or some sort of patch that would allow you to install without the server.

    Where is it?

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:19AM (#46684011)

    Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot by discontinuing XP because so many devices rely on it. And the market is reacting with a move to Linux. Companies who bet too heavily on Microsoft and Windows XP, i.e., companies run by stupid people, are losing big time. That's the way markets are supposed to work.

    If the government intervenes, it will do three things: it will perpetuate a lousy operating system, it would prop up Microsoft's desktop OS position a little longer, and it would prevent companies that made stupid beds on Microsoft's proprietary software from suffering the consequences of their poor choices. I don't see any compelling public interest in any of that.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:49AM (#46684397) Journal

    If people put as much effort into getting off of XP as they spend fighting the inevitable, they would not be facing these challenges right now. Microsoft has made it quite clear that they are going to sunset the product. There have been newer, better operating systems released that provide an easy upgrade path. Unless someone is running a single core processor, Windows 7 is faster and more stable than XP.

    And if the newer Microsoft OSes are sooooo terrible, "There is always Linux." (Or OSX)

    These "Save XP" articles are tired and played out. Move on guys. When I read these articles, all I hear is, "Whaaaaaaa. I have procrastinated for the last five years and now I'm fucked. Save me from my own ineptitude!!!"

    For a community focused on OSS and Linux. For a community that has consumed Lord only knows how many terabytes of storage bashing XP and touting the glories of ANYTHING ELSE. For a community like that, one would think that XP going EOL would be celebrated with much merriment and significant rejoicing. Oddly enough, it seems that one would be wrong.

  • by Red_Chaos1 (95148) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:39PM (#46686941)

    We all had ample time to get the fuck off of XP by now. All the crying and whinging is stupid. Update your damn OS already. It's not Uncle Microsoft's fault you didn't get your ass in gear and set up an upgrade path sooner.

  • by Hamsterdan (815291) on Monday April 07, 2014 @04:25PM (#46687959)

    That OS is 13-14 years old...

    It won't stop working (well maybe the activation thingy), you just won't get any kind of security updates, and in some time, it will be unsupported by security software (kinda like 98)

    I still have a 98SE machine running (for old games that don't work on modern windows versions), but with some caveats

    1- It's not hooked up to the network, and will never be
    2- Older hardware will not have driver updates
    3- Transferring files is done via DVD-R or CD-R (because no, it won't be hooked up, and no, I don't want to install USB mass storage drivers on it)

    The same can be done with XP (activating it might be fun without an internet connection, but I'm pretty sure MS could release a little program that activates XP (but probably won't))

    I'm glad not to be working for an ISP, it's gonna be a nightmare for both customers and CSRs when the machines get infected

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