Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Windows XP

The idea that format migration is integral to digital preservation was for a long time reinforced by people's experience of format incompatibility in Microsoft's Office suite. Microsoft's business model used to depend on driving the upgrade cycle by introducing gratuitous forward incompatibility, new versions of the software being set up to write formats that older versions could not render. But what matters for digital preservation is backwards incompatibility; newer versions of the software being unable to render content written by older versions. Six years ago the limits of Microsoft's ability to introduce backwards incompatibility were dramatically illustrated when they tried to remove support for some really old formats.

The reason for this fiasco was that Microsoft greatly over-estimated its ability to impose the costs of migrating old content on their customers, and the customer's ability to resist. Old habits die hard. Microsoft is trying to end support of Windows XP and Office 2003 on April 8 but it isn't providing cost-effective upgrade paths for what is now Microsoft's fastest-growing installed base. Joel Hruska writes:
Microsoft has come under serious fire for some significant missteps in this process, including a total lack of actual upgrade options. What Microsoft calls an upgrade involves completely wiping the PC and reinstalling a fresh OS copy on it — or ideally, buying a new device. Microsoft has misjudged how strong its relationship is with consumers and failed to acknowledge its own shortcomings. Not providing an upgrade utility is one example — but so is the general lack of attractive upgrade prices or even the most basic understanding of why users haven't upgraded.
This resistance to change has obvious implications for digital preservation.

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