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Some restrictions may apply

Just how desperate is Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) to get customers to relinquish their death grip on its nearly decade-and-a-half old operating system, Windows XP?  It's now offering customers $100 USD to get rid of their old Windows XP PC -- although some restrictions do apply.
The caveat is that you have to trade in your computer at a Microsoft Store, and you have to buy a new Windows 8.1 machine that costs $599 USD or more (limiting the maximum discount is roughly 16 percent).
The good news is that most of the laptops and desktops at Microsoft stores are relatively new, so it's unlikely that, Inc. (AMZN), Newegg, and other online retailers will be able to offer a better deal, on average.
Microsoft has previously offered a $50 USD gift card for those who traded in XP machines.  By contrast the new deal is simply a direct discount, redeemable instantly off your purchase.

Windows 8.1 discount

The initiative won't likely do Microsoft any great favors financially, given that it already was rumored to have cut Windows 8.1 licensing fees on low cost machines from $50 USD to $15 USD (which would indicate an $85 USD loss on the current deal, if accurate).  But the deal isn't quite that bad for Microsoft as it creates goodwill with its OEM allies who are grumbling about the impact of poor Windows 8.x sales on their bottom line.  Plus Windows 8 comes with the Windows Store, and Microsoft gets a cut of app revenue
Windows 8.1 has been met with tepid casual consumer and enthusiast response, outside of tablet devices, which seem to perform quite well with the new Metro user interface.  Microsoft has promised for a second time to repair Windows 8 for non-touch devices with the Windows 8.1 Update 1 and future follow-ups later this year.
Windows XP computers are still found in vast quantities in many parts of the world.  While they're now in the minority in the U.S., Microsoft's figures suggest that when the April termination of support for the platform rolls around 65 percent of users in China -- the world's most populous nation -- will still be using Windows XP.  Unfortunately there's not enough $100 USD discounts to solve that dilemma.

Source: Microsoft Store

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Still not affordable
By JediJeb on 3/21/2014 2:29:10 PM , Rating: -1
$100 doesn't even come close to what it cost in just travel charges for a service engineer to come out and upgrade one of our pieces of lab equipment from XP to anything newer. Now if MS could cover most of the cost of the $300 trip charge, $500 labor fee, $6000 software upgrade fee and a couple days of down time(50 samples per day per instrument at $100 per sample) then maybe it would be worth it to us.

A home or office PC it is a good deal, but some people just have too much tied up in it to be able to afford it.

The above numbers are applicable only if the equipment is compatible with newer PCs, those that would more of an upgrade because they communicate through serial ports, GPIB ports or other out of date interfaces could cost up to $100k to replace :(

RE: Still not affordable
By Zorblack1 on 3/21/2014 2:39:50 PM , Rating: 4
The fact you don't know how computers can get infected and yet you seem to be in charge of some laboratory equipment scares me.

All products have a useful/supported life span. You have had years and years to have business workup a budget for replacement of EOL. Poor planning.

Prepare to be taken for a ride. FYI your Netgear Firewall/NAT is not going to save you.

RE: Still not affordable
By JediJeb on 3/21/2014 5:11:11 PM , Rating: 2
I know how computers can get infected, but you don't need laboratory computers that run equipment connected to the internet so we don't worry about that.

RE: Still not affordable
By Belegost on 3/21/2014 2:43:56 PM , Rating: 3
Does this equipment need to be connected to the internet? It's not as though end of support will suddenly cause the system to cease working, so as long as the equipment can be run without WAN access simply keeping it on a secure private network should be fine.

If you need WAN access - good luck.

RE: Still not affordable
By tayb on 3/21/2014 2:45:09 PM , Rating: 2
$6,800 to upgrade an operating system and two days of down time? What the hell are you doing? I could blow up the computer with dynamite for sport, order new parts from Amazon/Newegg, assemble a new machine, and re-install all of the software for a lower price and less downtime.

Do you mind telling me the labs you work for? I need to get in on this scam.

I am also extremely alarmed that you have some level of control over lab equipment and yet you do not see the urgency of upgrading a 13 year old operating system that is about to become the largest virus haven in computing history.

RE: Still not affordable
By 91TTZ on 3/21/2014 4:06:35 PM , Rating: 2

You don't seem to be familiar with laboratory/industrial settings. Often they run specialized software that was custom programmed a long time ago, and it's difficult to simply upgrade the OS without breaking that software.

My girlfriend works for the Navy and they run diagnostics software for the engines on helicopters on Windows 3.1. Why do they run this? Because when it was designed it worked perfectly fine and it still works perfectly fine. There is no need to upgrade.

Places like this exist all over the place, with computers running CT machines, CNC machines, mass spectrometers, engine diagnostics, etc. These computers run specialized software and aren't used for browsing the internet.

RE: Still not affordable
By JediJeb on 3/21/2014 5:32:48 PM , Rating: 3
$6,800 to upgrade an operating system and two days of down time? What the hell are you doing? I could blow up the computer with dynamite for sport, order new parts from Amazon/Newegg, assemble a new machine, and re-install all of the software for a lower price and less downtime.

Can you do all that and include an ISA port in the computer for the interface card, or supply the $6000 plus software upgrade from the equipment manufacturer along with setting it up to run the equipment?

Do you mind telling me the labs you work for? I need to get in on this scam.

I work for an environmental testing laboratory, one of the larger ones actually. We do things like test your drinking water to make sure it is safe to drink, or the waste waters to make sure people are not polluting the environment. The problem is those people want to pay the very least they can for that work, and there are always some person with a little lab in their garage trying to pull customers away, well until the customer gets a fine because those guys were running their samples without being certified to do so.

We run a several thousand samples per month, but the total revenue for a company like us is maybe $5M per year, not so much to work with when you could spend 20% of that to replace a couple pieces of equipment.

I am also extremely alarmed that you have some level of control over lab equipment and yet you do not see the urgency of upgrading a 13 year old operating system that is about to become the largest virus haven in computing history.

I would love to have everything running on new computers, but I can budget in to replace hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment because a few thousand dollars of computers are getting a little old. Heck we just got rid of our last W3.11 about 4 years ago and our last NT4 computers two years ago. We did manage to upgrade some of the old W95 computers to XP about 10 years ago which did help, but that still left us with slow computers(PII 300mhz) running XP.

The front office has all W7 boxes and all only a few years old, and we keep those up to date because those are the ones that face to the internet. In contrast I still have two in the lab stuck with XP SP2, because if you upgrade to SP3 the equipment control software just refuses to work, and if you try to reinstall it you get a warning that you are running SP3 and the install program ends. Call the vendor and they say "sorry we don't upgrade that any more, but you can purchase our new equipment, we will even give you a $10,000 trade in." Too bad that is less than 10% of the total cost.

Industrial/Laboratory setting are just different from other types of work that rely on computers :(

RE: Still not affordable
By Bubbacub on 3/22/2014 2:41:00 AM , Rating: 2
Why not run it under a virtual machine? If it connects via a parallel port you can use a USB to parallel adaptor + virtual machine. I use this to play around with an old original palm pilot On my Linux install.

If you need a 16 bit isa slot then I guess you are stuck.

RE: Still not affordable
By sorry dog on 3/23/2014 12:37:42 PM , Rating: 2
If your equipment will work with AMD stuff...I believe the Abit KT7A had one 16bit legacy slot, a couple usb ports, and even parallel and serial ports. It was quite snappy at 1.5ghz with some decent hard drives running XP and had 95/98 drivers as well. You can still find some rebuilt ones that have had the caps replaced. If you pay postage, I'll send you an old Thunderbird 1.33

I miss those days...hardware was much easier to deal with.

RE: Still not affordable
By JediJeb on 3/24/2014 4:24:46 PM , Rating: 2
On one piece of equipment we tried to install the software on W7 and it all went great until it started asking us to insert the floppy disk with the hardware drivers on it. We tried them on a USB stick but the install software is hard coded to look for drivers in A: directories. Tried remapping the USB port to A: but that didn't even work. Maybe if we had one of the USB attached floppy drives it could be made to work, but it may also be trying to go directly to the FDC on the motherboard.

As for compatibility Agilent in the last few years just started using control software that doesn't use the WoW(Windows on Windows) process, up until then it was all using a 16bit backbone with 32bit GUI or something like that. It was essentially the original DOS/Win3.11 version of software with just enough added to make it compatible with W95/WNT4/W2K/XP and now W7. They never marked any listed as compatible with W98 or Vista. The version compatible with XP SP2 was not compatible with SP3 and it even did a check when you start up the software, and if you upgraded to SP3 it would stop working. Those were the first ones to be cut off the internet, because if they ran autoupdate it could cause us to have to completely reload the original version of Windows. Total headache those were.

RE: Still not affordable
By jimhsu on 3/21/2014 3:05:14 PM , Rating: 2
Depressing but not surprising. The last time I worked in a lab with that kind of equipment (chromatography in my case), they were running Windows 3.1. Yes, really. In 2009.

Often such equipment is built on proprietary software and obsolete interfaces (9 pin serial ports are still widely used today, and I've even seen parallel ports [the ones way back in the days before printers came on USB]). The more specialized and expensive that particular kit is, the less likely that it'll be upgraded. For one, manufacturers have no incentive to provide upgrades on the software side when they're trying to sell you that new and shiny $250k machine that has user convenience features - when that 10-yr old relic that you have works perfectly fine, sensitivity/specificity wise for your needs.

You'll likely see such equipment go away with a fresh injection of research funding. Given the current situation of the NIH and other funding agencies, plus the economy, I don't see that as likely in the forseeable future.

RE: Still not affordable
By jimhsu on 3/21/2014 3:08:40 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yea ... that machine in particular did not have WAN (fortunately). Neither did it have USB ports, though.

Our data gathering was limited to a) 3.5" floppies (again, yes in 2009) or b) analog (as in manually copying values on a lab notebook). Depending on the volume of data and the difficulty of finding working floppy drives, (b) was usually faster.

RE: Still not affordable
By JediJeb on 3/21/2014 5:09:27 PM , Rating: 2
Ours is a chemical analysis lab, we do mostly environmental monitoring and the equipment is chromatography, mass spectrometry and plasma spectrometry. We are in the position of having equipment worth $100k-$400k tied to a PCs that are ancient. In the last couple years we had to buy about six of these pieces of equipment simply because we needed to get rid of the old PII400 computers running NT4. Since the interface cards were ISA slots, you just can't find new computers with those these days. So we spent about $300k just to replace two aging computers(three instruments running on each computer). The problem is the instruments were running just fine, no longer supported but they just never break. And to be honest they give better results than the new ones that replaced them.

RE: Still not affordable
By jimhsu on 3/21/2014 6:24:16 PM , Rating: 2
Chemistry ... yea I thought so. My experience was also in a chem lab (though student). Now that I'm in a molecular bio lab, we get newer toys, though this is more out of necessity (because many things that we use now haven't been invented back in 2005 or so) than actual money to be had. Our confocal is nearing 10 years, though it does run Windows 7.

RE: Still not affordable
By dew111 on 3/21/2014 5:58:17 PM , Rating: 2
You don't buy your lab equipment at the Microsoft Store. This deal isn't for you.

RE: Still not affordable
By JediJeb on 3/24/2014 4:01:15 PM , Rating: 2
We do purchase most of the computer that run the instruments through Dell or HP, could just as easily purchase them from a MS store.

Still it is the idea behind the offer that just doesn't fly with some industrial people. It has and probably always will be a headache that very expensive equipment is build to last for decades while the typical computer generation is only a few years, and whole architecture changes come in decade or less time frames also for computers.

RE: Still not affordable
By NicodemusMM on 3/21/2014 10:08:32 PM , Rating: 1
This isn't at all surprising. A lot of lab and industrial equipment is still running XP or prior, but they're typically air-gapped.

The costs involved are also not surprising. Once you're tied into very specialized software it costs a fortune to support and even more to get away from.

The problems may become worse once the supplier stops supporting XP. At that point you may be forced into paying higher costs on support contracts or moving to a more recent version of their software... both of which are nightmare material for someone.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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