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

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 Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:33AM (#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 flux ( 5274 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:38AM (#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.

  • An Alternative Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:42AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:45AM (#46681219)

    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 @02:49AM (#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. []
  • Re:Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:51AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @02:56AM (#46681275)

    More barriers to entry? I guess it'll be good for the lawyers.

  • Re:Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cenan ( 1892902 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:01AM (#46681299)

    Relinquish copyright on the product and the problem is solved. Release the source and there is no problem.

  • by FaxeTheCat ( 1394763 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:02AM (#46681301)
    The case is based on false assumptions.
    Microsoft still provide support for Windows XP to those who are willig to pay for it: []
    Case closed.
  • by Barlo_Mung_42 ( 411228 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:12AM (#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?

  • Re:no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:13AM (#46681343) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by qwijibo ( 101731 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:16AM (#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.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:20AM (#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?

  • Define Support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by enter to exit ( 1049190 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:26AM (#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.
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:33AM (#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.

  • by FaxeTheCat ( 1394763 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:34AM (#46681427)
    If she is willing to pay a nominal fee, why not spend that money to upgrade the OS? After all, it seems that you are willing to help move her to Linux (which is not a bad idea), so I guess you could also help her upgrade to Win7 or Win8.1?
  • Re:no. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @03:40AM (#46681451)

    So here is your big wake-up call. If you don't do something about the future guess what is gonna happen?

    The big wake up call is that anybody not willing to continue to provide full support to a 13 year old OS version should be avoided? Got it. Now checking current official Apple support for Mac OS 9.2..., and commercial Linux distro support, bug and security fixes for their 2.4.0 kernel based releases.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @05:37AM (#46681849)

    it's a pretty easy barrier if enforced on _everyone_.

    Supporting consumer grade software that is sold for ~$100 a time indefinitely, including providing full internal technical details to arbitrary additional parties, is a "pretty easy barrier"? I'm sorry, but that is absurd.

    There are people in this discussion suggesting that someone who doesn't want to comply with such rules can go **** themselves and just give up on entering the US market. Well, guess what? They probably would. The burden imposed by this kind of requirement would almost certainly be prohibitive in cost. A vendor such as Microsoft would therefore do better to sacrifice the entire US market if it meant avoiding both an eternal unfunded mandate to support everything they ever sold and giving up their trade secrets to all their competitors.

    There are also people in this discussion pointing out that other industries, such as automotive manufacture, involve a much higher level of safety standards and engineering approval. That is true, but cars typically cost 2-4 orders of magnitude more than commercial off-the-shelf software products, and they have working lifetimes that are probably shorter than Windows XP's 12+ years in many cases. Moreover, the auto manufacturers still aren't required to disclose the keys to the kingdom to the degree that is suggested here.

    I'm all for developing good quality software, and if you're running a long-term software business then I think providing a reasonable degree of free-of-charge support to your existing customers is probably a good investment. But providing heavyweight support has a large cost, so unless you as a customer are willing either to regulate the industry and pay N times as much for your software purchases up-front or to pay the true cost of ongoing support via proper support contracts, I don't think it's realistic to expect that vendors will just cover that cost indefinitely out of their own pockets.

    In fact, in the entire history of software development, that has almost never happened. Apple have released the first version of OS X around the same time as Microsoft released Windows XP, yet Apple have aggressively promoted numerous upgrades, most of which cost a significant amount of money, since that time, and somehow I suspect you'd have trouble getting full support for an original OS X system today. And to put this all in perspective Open Source darlings like Mozilla Firefox have "long term support" releases with lifetimes measured in months, not years. It's actually remarkable that Microsoft have offered free support to Windows XP for as long as they have, despite releasing not one but three successor generations of the product during that period.

  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday April 07, 2014 @07:36AM (#46682241)

    Mod parent -1, megacorp shill. Disclosure of the manufacturing process is the opposite of a barrier to entry!

  • Re:Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:35AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:53AM (#46683725)

    to support they could simply release their internal documentation, source code, diagrams etc. to the public

    That isn't a simple matter at all if you're still developing new versions of your product based on the same materials. You are proposing that a business whose primary asset is its collective knowledge should be required to give away the most important knowledge it has accumulated, at great cost, up to a certain point, just to absolve it of a hypothetical liability that it was never realistic to assign to that business in the first place.

    That would be a fair compromise considering that IT is one of the very few industries that get away with delivering faulty, unstable and insecure products as the accepted norm. If houses or clothes or refrigerators were produced like software...

    ...then a lot of houses would need expensive repairs after a few years to fix damage caused by subsidence, pests, unanticipated weather conditions, or the neighbours causing damage while doing work on their own property, while cheap clothes would be some of the most frequently returned items in stores because they fall apart after they've hardly been worn due to economising on manufacturing techniques and materials?

    People talk a lot about how software is unreliable and breaks all the time, but the reality is that most consumer software is remarkably resilient given the many and varied jobs it needs to do and the cost of making it. I'm writing this on a Windows 7 PC that I've had for several years. I can count on my fingers the total number of times Windows has fallen over, and as far as I know all of them were actually caused by either a hardware failure or a dodgy update to some additional system software like a device driver or security tool, not by Windows itself. Sure, some software isn't up to scratch and the people who make it deserve to be criticised, but I don't think it's fair to claim that software in general is some sort of unusable, bug-ridden mess.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.