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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Windows XP – Prevalent and Problematic

Released on December 31, 2001, Windows XP Professional for Embedded Systems (XPP-FES) has been the long running OS of choice for most Industrial applications.  This is due to widespread acceptance of Windows XP as an operating system (and, until Windows 7, really no other accepted version of Windows in the Industrial market.)  If you have an open-platform Intel based Industrial PC in your facility or installed into machines your company makes, in all likelihood, XPP-FES is installed on that system. Essentially, XPP-FES is the industrial license for the Windows XP Pro OEM package you would have been able to purchase with your industrial computer.  XPP-FES is bit-for-bit identical to Windows XP Pro. If your Industrial PC system was purchased in the early 2000’s, it may have had a Windows XP Pro license sticker on it, but at some point, if you continued to purchase systems, that license likely changed to XPP-FES. Windows XPP-FES licenses will continue to be produced by Microsoft until December 31, 2016. While this means that Industrial PC manufacturers can still purchase these licenses for another three years and, presumably, could purchase enough licenses to continue to sell those licenses beyond that date, another critical date looms in the immediate future.

On April 8, 2014 (less than a year from the time of this document,) Microsoft ends their extended support coverage for the venerable Windows XP Pro Operating System.  

  • This means that there will be no more Service Packs (granted, the last Service Pack for Windows XP Pro was SP3 release on May 6, 2008)
  • And, more critically, no more OS updates issued beyond that date.

While Windows XP has been in the mainstream for a long time, bug fixes and security patches continue to be released.  After April 8, 2014, Microsoft does not plan to release any more updates for Windows XP even if a security exploit is made known.  Of course, this does not mean that your Windows XP Pro or Windows XPP-FES system will stop working.  It does mean, however, that if your Industrial PC Windows system is connected to the Internet or if your system can be accessed by your users, the possibility exists that a security exploit could occur.  Each company should evaluate their systems with a qualified IT professional to make a risk assessment of how Windows XP is being used.

Where do you go from here? Read our blog posts “Beyond Windows XP  Part 1 – Windows 7/8 for Embedded Systems” and Beyond Windows XP Part 2– Windows Embedded to find out.

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