Windows XP extended support is scheduled to end April 8th 2014. Microsoft has many reasons to stick to the plan – older systems are a pain to patch, they are supporting too many legacy systems, and they make more money when people are in an upgrading cycle. Although this will drive many businesses to move and kick some individuals into gear, millions will stick with their familiar and stable XP, either due to the cost, the inability of old software to run, fear of change, or simply the lack of motivation.

Turning to the dark side for a moment, the aging XP may be more battle tested than the shiny new Windows 8, but it still represents an easier attack footprint with its legacy code base that has its roots in Windows NT. This last Patch Tuesday alone there were 26 vulnerabilities patched, 10 of which were IE patches. Most of the vulnerabilities, especially the IE-related ones, apply to XP through Windows 8. The battle for security rages on.

So what happens on the last day of extended support? April 8th happens to be the second Tuesday of the month so this would presumably be the final patch day, although I’m not sure. But what happens the next day? Apparently all Microsoft patching for any and all XP machines simply stops.

Put another way, Microsoft will concede the remaining installed base of XP users to the hackers.

It has been suggested (though I can’t confirm) that hackers who find good exploits that work in XP are holding back until after the 8th. If this is true then there will be a semi-coordinated bloodbath of viruses next April. All of these new attacks will target XP, but most will also function on the newer versions as well. Microsoft will be extremely busy patching Vista through Windows 8, and will be glad to have even one less OS image to have to generate and validate. Their message to the remaining XP users will be a cold “upgrade yesterday!”.

In a seemingly unrelated story, Google announced today that they will extend XP support for the Google Chrome browser until at least April 2015. The tech blogs seem to see this as a nice thing, where Google comes across as a a caring company. Although I see it as a deep game on their part.

In mid-April, assuming I’m right about the flash mob of exploits, the media will have an hysterical field day. There will be a run on crappy and/or overpriced PCs at Best Buy (I feel sorry for all these rube buyers), but most will be looking for a quick-fix solution. Google will be there to casually remind the media that they have the solution. Just install Chrome, which is free of any of these new browser exploits.

Google will pick up a ton of new Chrome users. Those users will feel grateful towards Google and feel resentment towards Microsoft. The Chrome user counts will improve while sapping IE numbers, which may hold as those users slowly move to new PCs. And everyone will be “educated” as to what IE really is – an outdated insecure browser that can’t be used safely.

Well played Google.