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RIP XP, and what this means for embedded solutions

While you’re probably not likely to be running Windows XP on your own PCs (maybe other than the one in the kitchen you use to pay the bills on), there are an awful lot of XP’d up computers out there. I saw a recent article in The Wall Street Journal Online that put the number at 300 million,

… including many that manage water, electric and sewage treatment plants and ATMs.

This is important because Microsoft has end-of-lifed XP. No more updates, no more security patches. Which is bad news for those 300 million computers, which will now be ultra-vulnerable to new security threats.

The software giant itself will further contribute to the problem in May, when Microsoft issues updates to Windows 7 and Windows 8, more modern operating systems built on a similar blueprint as XP. The patches Microsoft sends for those operating systems will be pointing hackers to possible weak spots in XP without supplying the fix.

Just as there will be enterprising hackers out there, I’m sure that some enterprising good guys will jump in to help solve potential security problems and/or to help migrate those who have critical applications (like water, electric, sewage treatment, and ATMs) that have embedded PCs to embedded systems with more of a shelf life. Even if this happens – which it no doubt will – the end of XP still represents a big concern.

XP, for a number of reasons (including the security holes and frequent patches) was a pretty poor embedded solution to being with. In general, PC-based boards have low longevity. This means that customers get whip-sawed by frequent changes, and the need to requalify a product when the PC-based boards get swapped out, which can cause Windows driver compatibility issues, among other potential problems.

Anyway, from our point of view, XP going away may well force more folks off of embedded PCs, and onto ARM or DSP-based SoMs.

This works for me…