October 16, 2013, 3:25 PM — Google today stuck a finger in Microsoft's eye, telling users of Windows XP that its Chrome browser will support their aged operating system a year longer than will Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
"We're extending support for Chrome on Windows XP, and will continue to provide regular updates and security patches until at least April 2015," said Mark Larson, Chrome's director of engineering, on a company blog Wednesday.
Google's goal was to "support Chrome for XP users during this transition process," added Larson. He was referring to the impending retirement deadline for Windows XP, the fact that millions of PCs still run the 12-year-old OS even with that deadline less than six months away, and the likelihood that tens of millions -- perhaps hundreds of millions -- of machines will continue to do so after the do-not-use date.
Microsoft will ship its final public security update for Windows XP on April 8, 2014, after which time only large customers that have paid for expensive post-retirement support will receive patches.
Because Microsoft ties support for its own Internet Explorer (IE) to the underlying operating system's end date, people running Windows XP will also not receive patches for that browser. Even IE8, which debuted in 2009, will not get updates if running on Windows XP, although on other platforms, including Windows Vista and Windows 7, it will continue to receive patches.
Microsoft will, for example, patch IE8 on Windows 7 through that operating system's support cycle. Windows 7 exits support in January 2020.
Many security professionals have told Windows XP users to ditch IE after the April 2014 retirement date. Although Microsoft will not patch XP after that, because many malware threats are directed at browsers, keeping the default browser up to date, no matter what its brand, will be one way to minimize but not eliminate risk.
According to Web metrics company Net Applications, Windows XP powered approximately 35% of all Windows PCs that went online last month, keeping it securely in the second spot behind the more popular Windows 7, which accounted for 51% of all Windows systems during the same period.
Using the last three and 12 months of Net Applications' data, Computerworld has projected that XP will remain on between 18% and 26% of all Windows machines at the end of April 2014.
Chrome will not be the only choice for Windows XP users next year. Mozilla's Firefox and Opera Software's Opera desktop browsers will also support XP after Microsoft stops patching IE on the OS.
Microsoft has been beating the dump-XP drum for years, and in 2013 stepped up the tempo. Last month during a half-day presentation to Wall Street analysts, COO Kevin Turner said, "We have plans to get [XP's share] to 13% by April when the end-of-life of XP happens. This has been a major and multi-year initiative for us, and one that we've worked very hard on to make sure we can execute towards."
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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