Support Ending for Office 2003

On April 8th, just over 2 months from now, Microsoft will officially stop providing support for both Windows XP and Office 2003.  What does that mean for you and your business?

According to statcounter.com, as of today, 17.78% of people worldwide, and 10.92% of Americans, are still using Windows XP.  While the statistics for Office 2003 usage are unknown, I still see a few clients utilizing it.  What they all have in common is that on April 8th, they will all be in a lot of trouble if anything were to go wrong.

Why is Office 2003 still popular?

Office 2003 was the last version of Microsoft Office before Microsoft made the switch to the new ribbon menu system.  It was also the last before Microsoft introduced many new file formats for its various products including .docx for Word, .xlsx for Excel, and .accdb for Access to name a few.

While the new file formats caused some grief for users of 2003, due to compatibility issues, Microsoft released a compatibility pack soon after 2007’s release.  However, the switch to the new ribbon menu was enough to scare off many potential new users.  The new menu was so vastly different from the older menu, and unlike anything else Microsoft users had seen before, that it did not appeal to the company’s biggest client segment, commercial users.  Companies did not want to spend the time and money to train their employees on how to use the new version of the software.  Office 2003 was stable and it worked, so why switch?

The Era of Windows XP

Windows XP can probably be considered Microsoft’s most significant and popular operating system since it first released Windows 3.1.  While Windows 95 was the first OS to show us the new look of operating systems and what we now see as the standard Desktop, it was Windows XP that added a dimension of efficiently used power behind it.  While Windows Vista added power, it did so by utilizing a large majority of the computer’s memory to do so.  Windows XP was efficient and fast.  It let businesses run the software they needed to at speeds that optimized efficiency.

11 years later, it is still the number 2 operating system in popularity.  Only the versatile Windows 7 was able to pass it, and that took a while.  Windows Vista can be considered as much of a dud as Microsoft ever released and Windows 8 has failed to gain ground, likely too different and touch-screen oriented for a market of mostly commercial and enterprise users who use a keyboard and mouse the majority of the time.

What does the end of support mean?

It is a given fact that hackers are constantly trying to find ways into other systems, exploiting holes in the operating system that allow them entry.  Viruses, bugs, worms, and other tools are used to gain entry and to mess up the system.  Bugs can also occur naturally when the environment a program operates in has changed.  Microsoft is constantly working to try and patch up these holes, before they can be exploited and to correct the bugs that already exist.

Once support ends, these patches will no longer be made.  The holes will continue to exist and the security concerns can be exploited.  While it does not mean that the programs cannot continue to be used after the end of support, it does mean that the risk of something happening afterwards will begin to grow exponentially and that risk will need to be measured against the monetary and time cost of upgrading to the more recent technologies.

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