Windows 8 stumble could pose more security risks

More aging platforms on the Internet to crack

Evidence supports the notion that IT administrators will not be looking to upgrade to Windows 8 any time soon--a situation that could create future security risks from aging Windows machines.

A recent TechRepublic survey asked site members if they planned to upgrade to Windows 8. In the results reported this week, 46.8 percent stated that they had no plans to update to the new Windows operating system, with 34.7 percent still undecided. Only 18.5 percent of the 1,888 respondents said they would upgrade to Windows 8.

To be fair, a lot of the undecideds are probably playing a wait-and-see tactic. I know I would be. Snazzy product demos are fine, but when it comes to actual deployment, IT managers are going to want to see Windows 8 in action for a while before committing.

My colleague Steven Vaughan-Nichols sees this lack of interest in Windows 8, as well as Microsoft's continued insistence to screw its hardware vendor partners over by making and selling the Microsoft Surface tablet, as an opportunity for Mac and Linux machines to make more inroads in the desktop markets.

I would like that, too, and I'm sure there will be some small migrations to alternative platforms as IT managers get fed up with Microsoft's shenanigans. Sadly, Apple's shenanigans aren't much better, but their incremental release system is admittedly a whole lot easier to manage than these jarring "let's change everything" Windows releases.

What worries me is that Windows users are going to stay put and keep what they have. That means aging software on aging hardware, and possibly the chance for crackers to find new and creative ways to bring systems under their heel.

This conservative upgrade pattern is already well-ingrained. According to NetMarketShare), 42.86 percent of Windows machines are still(!) running Windows XP--an operating system released in 2001.

There's an argument to be made that as an operating system ages, small updates and service packs will help lock it down. But on the other side of that argument are the software applications that will not be upgraded as time goes on, because the application developers are coding for the cutting-edge platforms, not 11-year-old operating systems.

I can appreciate the need to be conservative with the IT pursestrings in this day and age. But we should be prepared for even more aging systems in the world as users potentially hold off from moving to Windows 8. More botnets, more worms, and all sorts of other business-adverse behaviors from machines that malicious hackers will have even more time to figure out how to p0wn.

If Linux is to step in and make some advances in this sector, that should be the tack it take: convincing IT managers that a migration to Linux will be relatively painless, easy on the wallet, and bring safer, more secure machines into their workplace.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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