Re: This is the fault of Trevor's clients
@DougS: for the particular folks discussed in this article the machines themselves were designed in the mid-90s, originally with Windows NT 4, though they didn't make it out the door and on the floor until very near the turn of the millennium. They were upgraded a few years later to Windows XP, specifically because the manufacturer wanted to stay with as secure a system as possible.
There are two components to the machine: one is a DOS (or OS/2?)-based controller that accepts raw inputs of files via NetBEUI. That's build into some card that's buried deep within the machine's guts. The second is the Windows XP system that sits on top of a motherboard with a bunch of ISA slots. This has two roles: the first is to drive something very much like an X/Y cutter as well as some sort of pre-polishing unit that makes the whole system go from "block of metal to 99.9% finished piece" in one go.
The second purpose of the Windows XP machine is to run some proprietary software made of out of ground demon that converts a primitive turn-of-the-millenium CAD format into whatever byzantine machine code is required by the system itself. That file is fired off over NetBEUI to the machine for machining, then the Windows XP system coordinates the X/Y cutting and polishing.
The XP box has TCP/IP on one NIC in order to accept input from the proper workstations and NetBEUI on the other side in order to talk to the machine's controller. The XP box is built into some freaking case of ultimate sharp edges and wrist-slitting death about 19 panels into the machine.
The company that made these went out of business ages ago. I remember being part of the migration of the systems from NT4 to XP. (I was not a part of the original purchase decision,) and I have been called back recently to secure the XP boxes for another 10 years of service.
And the CNC folks are only one group I have to deal with. The Photo Lab I work with has a bunch of stupid expensive photo printers that do roughly the same thing as the above; receive specially formatted images into a local buffer along with some metadata, then print onto gigantic printers. These things are still running Windows 2000 because we could not for the life of us get the drivers for the proprietary cards - let alone the stupid software - working under Windows XP.
All efforts by multiple individuals and companies around the world to get these systems ported to Windows 7 have failed, and not for lack of time or money going into the project. The original manufacturer was bought up at least three times. The current owner of the IP won't release any documentation. We're trying to reverse engineer everything, but it's a complicated pig and we're in way over our heads.
I wasn't part of the purchasing decisions on those either, but I inherited them and I have to make 'em go. There are newer printers running Windows 7, and we'll do this dance once more in 2020.
In both cases - and frankly, I could bring up several dozen others, from bakeries to fire halls - alternatives simply did not exist at the time of purchase. If you wanted a widget to perform the specified tasks at the specified rates using the specified materials you had exactly one vendor who made a device and this is how they chose to make it.
Should the people making things like CNC lathes and high-end photographic printers have been making control units out of Microsoft's client OSes? Hell no. That was an idiotic decision on their parts. Is it fair to blame the shop owners who bought the only thing they could buy to make their businesses go? I guess that's a question you have to ask yourself. You seem to think that's cool beans. I call it blaming the victim.
Is it fair to blame Microsoft? Maybe, maybe not. Microsoft did choose to sell these operating systems to the companies manufacturing this equipment. They've never been particularly nosy about how their software got used and that led us to the world we're in today.
Like it or not - and regardless of who you choose to "blame" - the reality is that Microsoft's absolute and total dominance of the endpoint market in the late 90s and throughout the 00s is what got us into this mess. Microsoft's software was what developers and businesspeople were familiar with. So it ended up everywhere. Even in warships!
Microsoft has no legal obligation to support an OS forever. I would personally argue that it is the height of self-importance and arrogance to expect them to support it for free even as long as they have chosen to.
Where I part ways with those who run Microsoft - as well as a number of commentards - is that I believe that part of Microsoft's moral, ethical and social obligations are to offer ongoing paid support at a price affordable by the kinds of SMBs who are ultimately the victims of this mess, without the minimum floor of several hundred systems.
Additionally, I feel that Microsoft's choices in this matter will have long-term repercussions in the trust that customers will be willing to put into Microsoft, something that Microsoft - and many commenter - don't seem to agree with. In fact, several folks seem to feel that I, my clients and everyone else int he world is somehow morally obligated to trust Microsoft. I can't even begin to understand that mindset.
You claim that there aren't enough companies that would pay for this to be viable, I say that's absolute bullshit. I work with some of the most underfunded SMBs in the first world and they would fall all over themselves to get in on that. To say nothing of the banks, governments, etc that would be on it like white on rice. Hell, for $65/year, I'd keep several of my old laptops on Windows XP just because it saves me the hassle of porting their stuff to Mint.
I've talked the numbers over with some of my contacts at Microsoft, RedHat and a few other companies. Largely, they agree with my figures, though they feel I am underestimating how many individual units worth of XP support would get sold at that price.
There is consensus that XP support could be maintained for a decade or more profitably. The biggest issue they have is finding developers that would be willing to shackle the rest of their careers to that OS, so we have some lovely debates about how much money it would take per dev to get them to sign on the dotted line.
Microsoft can make a profit supporting XP for another decade at prices affordable to SMBs without a floor cost in system counts, period. They choose not to. Why is not something they are willing to discuss openly, other than to say that "Windows XP is 13 years old and it is time for anyone using out of support operating systems to move on. Windows 8 provides numerous advantages that will enhance productivity and prepare businesses for the future of working in the cloud."
So if you want to blame someone, that's on your head. That's your morality and your ethics that's causing you to point fingers. I don't really blame Microsoft. They have a choice. They made that choice. I am highlighting the fact of that choice and the real-world impacts of that choice.
The choices Microsoft make determine whether or not I trust them in the future, with what I might trust them and how far. In the meantime, I will help my customers harden their XP systems for continued use. The world will keep turning, but I won't be advocating using Microsoft's software for anything truly mission critical; especially where there aren't many alternatives. Hopefully, my clients will have the option of heeding that advice. They certainly haven't had the choice in the past.