9 Ways Microsoft Is Scaring Windows XP Laggards Into Upgrading

All Aboard The XP Upgrade Bandwagon

Microsoft has been warning customers for the past couple of years that using Windows XP after April 18 is dangerous because it won't be releasing security patches for the aging OS. But apparently, a sizable number of customers haven't been listening. In December, Net Applications reported that Windows XP was running on 29 percent of PCs globally.

Windows XP and Office 2003 upgrades are big business opportunities for Microsoft partners. But it can be difficult to get customers to upgrade when these products are still meeting their needs just fine. So Microsoft has helpfully come up with marketing suggestions partners can use to convert the XP and Office 2003 holdouts.

With less than 75 days left until Microsoft guillotines support for XP and Office 2003, we've gathered up some of Microsoft's dire marketing messages, to show how the software giant has been trying to get customers to wake up and smell the coffee. Here are some examples.

1. No One To Call

Remember the tagline to 'Alien' -- In space no one can hear you scream? It sounds like XP users who need to talk their way through XP problems after April 8 could be in for a similar experience.

"When problems arise, online and phone-based technical support will unfortunately no longer be available to assist you or your IT partner, leaving you on your own to deal with the problem," Microsoft says on its Retiring Windows XP website.

What's that, you say? You've never needed phone support for XP? Well, you might be needing it after Microsoft stops releasing XP security fixes.

"Because our updates often fixed problems before you were aware of them, you may have never needed our tech support. But now that these updates are to stop, new problems may arise -- only now there will be no one to contact for tech support," Microsoft said in a XP end-of-life flier distributed to partners last month.

2. Bringing Government Agencies Into The Light

Government agencies are especially prone to using older versions of Windows and Office, Microsoft said in a PowerPoint deck distributed to partners for last year's "Get2Modern" marketing campaign. And while government agencies set the tone for enforcement of intellectual property rights, "[m]any have failed to maintain rigor in the qualified versions of the software they use," Microsoft said in the document. "A high percentage of Governments are relying on Windows XP and Office 2003 to run their offices," Microsoft said in the document, which also says partners should determine which of their customers' PCs have a "qualified underlying OS" as part of their XP upgrade discussions. "Government, health and public safety organizations face a myriad of daunting challenges. A major security breach doesn't have to be one of them," Microsoft said in another partner document. "As their trusted advisor, you can guide the transition from Windows XP to the new Windows -- creating an environment where everyone can make a positive impact to serve, protect and care for citizens."

3. Making The Right Telesales Pitch

In an undated Microsoft script for partners to use in phone calls to customers, which was viewed by CRN, Microsoft said there are still 8 million PCs in use in public sector organizations. In the script, Microsoft said partners should warn these customers that their operations might be disrupted if they don't upgrade to a newer version of Windows.

"Hi, this is [your name] from [partner organization]. I'm calling today to let you know about the April 8, 2014 official retirement of Windows XP. Retirement for the platform means all support, including security updates, will end. [emphasis Microsoft's]. By taking action in the near future to update your desktop platform, you can avoid any disruptions to your agency's operations. [emphasis Microsoft's]"

In the document, Microsoft said the script is merely a guide for conversations and recommends that partners seek legal counsel before making calls to ensure they're not breaking any telemarketing disclosure laws.

4. Trapped By Downtime

With no more patches for XP, and third-party vendors ending support for their apps, customers that fail to heed Microsoft's warnings could be in for a rough ride.

"The risks of system failure and business disruption could increase because of the end of support, lack of supported software, and the increasing age of hardware running Windows XP," Microsoft says on its Retiring Windows XP website.

5. Crazy Support Costs

Microsoft, in a PowerPoint document intended for partners to use in sales discussions, instructs partners to raise the issue of support costs with customers that have dug in their heels against upgrading from Windows XP.

"Custom Support agreements to receive critical security fixes, non-security (bug) fixes and paid incidents can be as much as $200K per year for [Software Assurance] customers and up to $500K per year for non-SA customers," Microsoft said in the document.

6. You're Not Too Small To Be A Target

Small and medium-sized businesses running Windows XP might not see the benefits of paying for a more secure OS like Windows 8 or Windows 7. In the PowerPoint document, Microsoft said that "40 percent of SMBs have experienced a security breach," and that "Windows 8 is 21 times less likely to become infected than Windows XP."

7. Upgrading From Windows XP Is Good For Road Warriors

In the PowerPoint document, Microsoft said if you're still using a Windows XP notebook, you're probably sick of carrying it around while on the road.

"Let's say you're a sales person or project manager. You're always on the go, continuously traveling for work. Your office can be an airport terminal one minute, and a coffee house the next. If you're using Windows XP, then chances are you're stuck carrying a heavy, slow laptop to present to your customers. And trying to find a remote location just to edit your project can be a headache," Microsoft said in the document.

8. Keeping XP PCs Disconnected From The Internet Won't Help

In a document distributed to partners, Microsoft said permanently disconnecting Windows XP PCs from the Internet won't protect them from all security breaches and downtime after the deadline passes.

"Being disconnected to an internal network [sic], or using a USB or CD to transfer information, may reduce the attack surface but will still leave you vulnerable to several types of attacks once support ends. Aside from a few special situations, keeping your Windows XP machine in a sealed room on its own is not the right choice for your business," Microsoft said in the document.

9. Everyone Else Is Doing It

If all else fails, Microsoft partners can simply inform customers that a large portion of the world's Windows- and Office-using population is upgrading away from Windows XP and Office 2003 to newer versions.

"Together Windows and Office are the gold standard for business platforms. By joining over one billion users worldwide, your communication with potential customers is less likely to be disrupted, and you'll limit training costs as you upgrade to a familiar environment," Microsoft said in a partner document.