Windows XP continues to demonstrate formidable staying power. Here are some reasons why many organizations want to hang onto it.

A few months ago, TechRepublic ran a poll asking members whether their organization was still using Windows XP as its primary OS.  Nearly 13,000 people responded – and of those, a whopping 96 percent said yes. It appears that despite the favorable press surrounding the impending arrival of Windows 7, IT pros and the companies they work for are not planning to migrate from XP any time soon. Here are a few reasons why.

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1: Many organizations don’t see the need to upgrade

For many organizations, sticking with Windows XP makes sense from a business standpoint. After all, Windows XP has already been bought and paid for, and the help desk staff has already been trained in how to support it. If there are no business reasons driving an organization to upgrade, it can avoid incurring additional costs by sticking with what’s already in place.

2: You can still get support

Microsoft has extended the support lifecycle for Windows XP several times over the years. In the most recent of these extensions, Microsoft has pledged to continue providing extended support for Windows XP through the year 2014.

3: It’s integrated into Windows 7

As we all know, Microsoft received a tremendous backlash for application compatibility problems with Windows Vista. The company pledged to make these problems go away in Windows 7. Its solution was to include a virtualized copy of Windows XP with Windows 7. Users can work within the Windows XP virtual machine, but Windows 7 was designed so that applications that are installed within Windows XP are available directly through the Windows 7 Start menu. They can be used without the user having to switch between operating systems. While such a solution is definitely innovative, it is another sign that Windows XP is going to be with us for many years to come.

4: It has a loyal following

As I’m sure you have noticed, Macintosh computers and Linux operating systems seem to have almost a cult following. The same sort of thing seems to be happening with Windows XP (not that this is necessarily a bad thing). At every trade show I attend, I meet people who are sold on the idea that Windows XP is the greatest operating system ever created and who plan on sticking with it until the bitter end. I can’t seem to recall ever seeing another Microsoft operating system attracting such a loyal fan base.

5: It runs on less powerful hardware

One of the major criticisms against Vista when it was released was that it does not use hardware resources as efficiently as Windows XP does. If you install Windows XP and Windows Vista on identical hardware, the Windows XP machine is usually going to be more responsive. Many organizations prefer using Windows XP over Vista because they believe that it helps improve efficiency and because they won’t be forced to retire their older hardware as they might be if they were to upgrade to a newer operating system.

6: It offers better support for legacy applications

Many older applications were developed with the assumption that they would have free rein over the system. In Vista however, applications are much more limited in what they are allowed to do. As a result, many older or poorly written applications won’t run on Vista. Although Vista does contain application compatibility settings that allow some legacy applications to function after a bit of tweaking, a lot of users find it less problematic to simply continue using Windows XP.

7: Hardware manufacturers still support it

I do everything I can to make sure that my lab is equipped with the latest hardware. This means that I am constantly buying upgrade components. One thing I have noticed is that even the latest and greatest hardware still comes with drivers for Windows XP. As long as the hardware manufacturers continue to support XP, the operating system is not going away.

8: Netbooks favor it

Over about the last year or so, netbooks have been gaining popularity because of their small size and even smaller price tag. While I have seen at least one Windows 7 netbook, the majority of netbooks on the market seem to be running Windows XP or Linux. Prior to writing this list, I went to a well known electronics retailer’s Web site and randomly clicked on a few netbooks. Each one I clicked on included a Windows XP operating system. So even though two versions of Windows have been released since the days of Windows XP, major electronics retailers are still selling brand new computers with Windows XP preinstalled.

9: It has a proven track record

You have probably heard of organizations whose policy is to not adopt any new software products until the first service pack is released. Their reasoning is that by the time the first service pack is released, most of the bugs should have been fixed and the software will be stable and reliable.

This same philosophy is part of what allows Windows XP to be a dominant operating system. It has been on the market for roughly eight years. In that time, it has received countless patches and updates, and the Windows XP core has proven itself to be stable and reliable.

10: What’s old is new

As technology changes, operating systems can quickly become outdated. But one of the things that’s keeping Windows XP alive is that many of Microsoft’s newer add-ons are fully supported on it. For example, Internet Explorer 8 and Windows PowerShell were both developed many years after the initial Windows XP release, but Microsoft allows them to be used with Windows XP. There are no signs that this trend is going to stop any time soon, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see support for 32-bit platforms gradually begin to fade away.