Windows XP has received a modest extension on its approaching end of life support. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that it will continue to offer anti-malware updates for XP through July 14, 2015.

The company has said it will end general XP support by April 8 of this year as it attempts to move the large number of XP users to a more recent Windows version, preferably version 8. Microsoft said its extension for updates to the anti-malware signatures and engine will not affect the decision to end OS support. As recently as last fall, Microsoft had not committed to extending updates of anti-malware signatures and engine past the general support cutoff date.

The updates will be available for enterprise Relevant Products/Services customers through System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune on XP, and, for consumers, through Security Essentials. However, any consumers expecting to use Security Essentials should make sure they have the app, since Microsoft will no longer allow new installations of that software Relevant Products/Services on XP after the April 8 deadline.

Third-Party Product

Any XP owners without Security Essentials after that date will need to download a third-party antivirus product to run the updates. Microsoft points out that an outdated operating system like XP can provide only some protection Relevant Products/Services against malware, since the threats have evolved while the OS has not.

At least one software security Relevant Products/Services firm, Kaspersky Lab, has announced that its Anti-Virus 2013 and Internet Security 2013 will continue XP support.

As of December, according to Web analytics Relevant Products/Services firm Net Applications, XP’s market share was still 29.98 percent, making it the second most popular version of Windows after Windows 7 at 47.52 percent. This would be impressive under any conditions, but is even more so when one considers that, in the fast-evolving world of operating systems, XP was released in 2001. The most recent Windows versions, 8.1 and 8, have 3.6 percent and 6.89 percent respectively.

Avoiding a 'Big Black Eye’

Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp., told us that Microsoft was extending the anti-malware updates because it “doesn’t want to get a big black eye” if there are waves of attacks on the large number of XP machines still in use.

She said that Microsoft wants to be seen as being committed to security, even as it tries to persuade the reluctant XP owners to migrate to a more modern Windows version.

Many business Relevant Products/Services users have been hesitant to upgrade to a newer Windows because of compatibility issues, such as the many reported with Vista, and because of Windows 8’s de-emphasis of keyboard-and-mouse interaction in favor of touch screens, which would mean upgrading to newer touch screen hardware.

When migration has occurred within the Windows family, the beneficiary has often been version 7. But some business users will now find that they can utilize a tablet, such as an Apple iPad or an Android-based tablet, for some of the functions of their old XP machines, or they might even entertain the notion of adopting the inexpensive, Net-centric, low-maintenance Chrome OS-based laptops.