It’s the operating system that won’t die. Months after Microsoft reaffirmed that it was really, truly, ridiculously serious about ending support for Windows XP next April, Google has stepped in to promise that users of the 12-year-old OS will still have access to a modern Web browser for at least the next few years. The company’s venerable Chrome browser will continue to receive regular updates and security patches on Windows XP until “at least April 2015.”
The decision to keep Chrome updated past Microsoft’s official support cut-off date has been met with dueling reactions. Some applaud the move, recognizing that hundreds of millions of computers worldwide are still running Windows XP, and will likely continue to do so after April 2014. In the absence of support for a secure browser, all of these machines would become vulnerable to the potpourri of Internet threats — viruses, malware, botnets — that would endanger the safety of individual computers and connected networks alike.
Others, however, argue that Windows XP is already too old to be secure, and that flaws in other parts of the operating system will be unchecked by updates from Microsoft. The continued presence of modern software on aging operating systems diminishes the impetus that users have to upgrade to more recent, and more secure, versions.
Regardless, the decision is to keep Chrome running on XP is primarily good business for Google. It offers XP users an alternative to Firefox, the only other major browser competitor on the platform, and it allows Google to keep its brand in the minds of cost-conscious users and businesses who, when their XP computers finally kick the bucket, may decide to abandon Microsoft altogether in favor of Google’s cloud services.
Windows XP was released to the public on October 25, 2001. Microsoft will cease delivering security and performance updates to the operating system on April 8, 2014, making any future security flaws a critical issue for users and businesses.