|Photo taken on April 7, 2014 shows the shutdown interface of Windows XP, in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province. (Xinhua/Yang Qing)|
BEIJING, April 15 -- Microsoft has stopped providing technical assistance for Windows XP, a 13-year-old PC operating system, opening up prolific opportunities in the information security market.
Computers can still run XP, but it will become more insecure and vulnerable to viruses as there will be no security updates.
Latest data from Chinese Internet analytics company CNZZ shows that Windows XP consistently ranks as the most popular operating system in China. As of last month, its market share was over 50 percent, followed by Windows 7 at nearly 30 percent; while the newest Windows 8 can barely be found at Internet cafes, businesses and schools.
Why the shutdown
Since more software and hardware manufactures make their upgraded products compatible to the latest Windows operating systems, a plenty of applications cannot be used in XP, making it fall far short of users' demands.
Statistics from over one billion computers in more than 100 countries and regions showed that, without update, XP's odds for virus infection are six times that of Windows 8, according to the latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report. Therefore, the company advised users to upgrade to its Windows 7 or Windows 8 systems.
As for the security concern, the technology of XP is up to the mark and will not be "cracked in one minute," said An Yang, a security adviser with Qihoo 360, a major Chinese antivirus software developer.
The upgraded Windows 7 and Windows 8 systems, with more security features, can lower the risks of getting attacked by Trojan viruses, but that does not mean they are absolute secure.
An Yang also explained Windows XP shutdown from the point of Microsoft's strategic demands. As XP, which has been dominating the market with a lion's share, eclipses the sales of Microsoft's follow-up systems, the company's overall performance is overshadowed.
Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research, a leading mobile Internet data analysis institution, said that the retirement of XP will bring prolific business opportunities to Microsoft itself, as "Microsoft can make a profit by focusing on enterprise-level market."
Microsoft's CFO also disclosed that as of the second fiscal quarter of 2014, the overall licensing of Windows systems goes up, with a 10-percent rise attributable to the demise of XP and upgrade of enterprise editions.
Prolific information security market
The phasing out of XP gave the main chance for various security providers vying to provide defense solutions for XP users until they upgrade their systems, according to Zhang Yi.
An iiMedia Research report forecast that the transitional period for XP will last from one to five years, with the new information security market size reaching five to six billion yuan.
So far, almost all Chinese IT companies engaged in information security, including Baidu, Tencent, Kingsoft, Rising and Qihoo 360, have aimed at this market by launching free Windows XP support plans to build a hedge against viruses. Nevertheless, netizens are still concerned with the post-XP era security.
Tang Wei, a security expert with antivirus provider Rising, said that Microsoft knows better than anyone else of its own products, therefore the best solution is to upgrade the XP system, adding, "following patch-ups are only remedial solutions and minor problems in stability and compatibility may pop up. "
Tang Xiaosheng, vice president of Qihoo 360, shared the view, saying that "no matter how advanced the system is, if it can be used indefinitely long, it will be cracked sooner or later."
Domestic systems hardly fill in
It's noteworthy that after the announcement of Windows XP demise, not a single domestic operating system stands out in the market, except for other Windows and Apple systems.
Industry watchers said that Microsoft's monopoly in PC operating systems would be overshadowed if domestic companies can develop a more secure and compatible system accepted by the market.
Not a few insiders have called for the development of domestic operating systems in recent years.
Ding Liping of the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the government was already on the lookout for the country's own operating system, well before Microsoft announced the end of XP support, and several systems had been put forward, such as NFSARK designed by Beijing's NFS, and NeoKylin, by Shanghai's China Standard Software.