The latest improvement to Windows 8 will be released on October 18th. The Windows 8.1 update will bring with it loads of customization options, personalization potential, a Start button, a “boot to desktop” option, a number of new default apps, and more. It is going to be a pretty big deal, by most accounts. This is Microsoft’s latest attempt to address as many of the initial complaints about Windows 8 as they can in a single blast of features and functionality.
While it is possible to download a Windows 8.1 Preview at this time, the final version isn’t available to consumers. Frankly, while the preview build gives a decent picture of what we have to look forward to, it isn’t really worth the time or effort that installation takes for many people. There are a lot of useful new features, but it might be better to wait until the final version is released rather than deal with the bugs in the meantime.
As Microsoft introduces their latest effort to be the future of computing, however, they are also preparing to leave one of their most beloved products in the past. The time when Windows XP support will no longer be available is quickly approaching.
As of April 8th, 2014 there will be no further patches for the twelve year old operating system. Given that XP still makes up a massive chunk of currently operating systems, that change is going to cause untold amounts of trouble as people either scramble to update or endure a period where exploits are left completely unaddressed indefinitely.
Some people have been speculating about malicious software being stockpiled until after XP support ends in order to take advantage of the fact that there will be no way to stop exploits. Most importantly, however, Microsoft’s Tim Rains pointed out an inevitable increase in zero-day attacks:
The very first month that Microsoft releases security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will reverse engineer those updates, find the vulnerabilities and test Windows XP to see if it shares those vulnerabilities. If it does, attackers will attempt to develop exploit code that can take advantage of those vulnerabilities on Windows XP.
Essentially, once Microsoft stops supporting the older operating system they can’t help but feed information to hackers who would prefer to use it maliciously. The incentive will decrease as fewer and fewer XP-based systems remain online, but we can expect some real problems over the next year.