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Report: Microsoft Slashing Windows XP 'Custom Support' Costs

Microsoft has lowered the cost for its custom support services for Windows XP, according to a report from Computerworld.

The previous ceiling cost for Microsoft custom support agreements was estimated at $5 million for organizations. However, Microsoft is lowering the price cap to $250,000 for a year of custom support, according to Computerworld. The cost of custom support is estimated at $200 per device. Microsoft is requiring organizations to pay for a minimum of 750 devices in order to receive custom support services.

By paying Microsoft for custom support, qualifying organizations may get a year's reprieve, at best, from running potentially insecure systems. The cost of a Microsoft custom support agreement can double after the first year, according Michael Silver, an analyst with Gartner Inc.

Custom support is typically purchased by large organizations that need to continue to get security patch support for Microsoft's software after the end of the product's lifecycle. Windows XP lost its "extended support" on April 8, meaning that the operating system no longer gets security updates from Microsoft. Instead, the near 13-year-old OS is open to new exploits that won't get patched for the vast majority of Windows XP users out there.

Web analytics estimates run by Net Applications have estimated that Windows XP was still in use by 27.69 percent of its sampled traffic by mid-March. A Redmond magazine reader survey found that 23 percent of respondents planned to keep running their Windows XP systems.

Veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley received a confirmation, of sorts, from Microsoft that suggested the company had reduced its custom support prices for organizations using Windows XP. Here's the statement, although it doesn't specify the actual cost reduction:

We've been working with customers and partners on the migration from Windows XP since we announced in September 2007 that support for Windows XP would end on April 8. 2014. As part of this effort, we've made custom support more affordable so large enterprise organizations could have temporary support in place while they migrate to a more modern and secure operating system.

Custom support agreements get negotiated by organizations, so there's apparently no public price list to check. Custom support agreements appear to be one-year contracts, with organizations having to meet certain milestones along the way toward migrating to a newer OS.

The suggestion that Microsoft has reduced the ceiling price of custom support seems a little surprising. Recently, some big-name customers have made the news in shelling out cash for Microsoft custom support agreements.

For instance, the U.K. government is reportedly paying Microsoft $9.2 million to get a year's worth of custom support for Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003. In addition, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service may be paying Microsoft around $11.6 million a year for custom support.

So far, the expected "zero-day" hazard of Windows XP, as predicted by Microsoft itself, hasn't been widely described, if it's taking place. Microsoft is continuing to issue anti-malware support for Windows XP systems through July 14, 2015, but that kind of security support doesn't address basic Windows XP kernel flaws, which only get addressed now through custom support agreements with Microsoft.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.