So,  ZDNet is advocating that Microsoft use a kill switch to render existing Windows XP computers non-functional. Then he relented and said maybe an expiration date would be sufficient.

John C Dvorak is attacking the idea, with good reason. Dvorak is right.

ZDNet author Zack Whittaker asks why Windows XP is so popular.

It appears I’m considerably older than Mr. Whittaker, and Mr. Whittaker doesn’t have much conscious memory of previous versions of Windows.

Windows XP is popular because it was the first version of Windows that worked really well for everything. Granted, Windows 2000 was extremely good, but for home use it didn’t always deliver. Previous versions were a bad joke.

I don’t think Mr. Whittaker is old enough to remember this, but Windows NT 4.0 promised “never reboot again!” I remember it splashed across the cover of PC/Computing magazine back in 1996. The promise was a joke. A software bug pretty much forced you to reboot every 90 days, but that was actually a big improvement over Windows 95. I counted myself lucky if Windows 95 could get through a week without a reboot. If I actually tried to use Windows 3.1, I could run it for about four hours before it crashed and required a reboot. Nobody who’d ever experienced a real computer before (read: Amiga) could stand it.

Windows XP will run undisturbed for six months or more if you don’t install patches. It’s almost Unix-like. I had a problem with Windows XP once. I let it report the problem to Microsoft, just to see what would happen, and you know what? It told me what device driver caused the crash and told me to replace it because the manufacturer no longer supported it. Guess what? I did that, and haven’t had another crash since. Astounding!

I have to admit that Windows 7 looks nice. It’s interesting. I want it. But without a 64-bit Libreoffice to run on it, and without a 64-bit Firefox with a 64-bit Flash plugin to run on it, there’s minimal benefit to moving. They may come next year. In the meantime, XP works. Why mess with something that works?

But beyond that, this is a serious consumer rights issue. If I pay for a piece of software, what right does Microsoft have to come along five or six or ten years later and say, “We know you paid for that, but it’s been too long, so we’re taking that away from you?”

General Electric doesn’t reach into my living room and destroy the TV, which must be more than 10 years old. Whirlpool doesn’t reach in and destroy my dryer, which must be at least 25 years old. They’re old and outmoded, but they do the job. Badly, in the case of my dryer, but they get it done.  I get to decide when they’re not doing a good enough job anymore and it’s time to replace them.

I still have two computers running Windows 2000 kicking around. One of the systems doesn’t have a prayer of running XP, so I never upgraded it. The other gets the job done as it is, so I never bothered to upgrade it. I use it a couple of hours a week, and it’s just not worth spending all weekend reinstalling everything.

There are people out there running systems much older than that, whether it’s because they already know how to use it and don’t want to retrain, or because there’s software that won’t run on anything else.

I think Dvorak nails it. ZDNet has authors who make their living selling books that show you how to use Microsoft’s new change-for-change’s-sake software every couple of years. If those pesky XP hipsters would just get with the times, they’d buy more books, and the ZDNet pundits would make more money.

Odds are, if Microsoft ever tried such a thing, that would be the last straw that saw the majority of us switching to Mac OS X or Linux. Not that a Microsoft lackey would ever consider that a possibility.