When it comes to killing software, Microsoft has generally been a cold-blooded executioner, much as Google is. There has been no turning back, including Windows XP, despite entire governments crying foul. That's what makes today's news all the more baffling.
The company issued its final patches to the decade old OS on April 8 -- except it didn't, it was a slight of hand. Last week a new flaw in Internet Explorer came to light, and it was bad. So bad, in fact, that both the US and UK governments issued warnings against using the web browser -- not exactly the publicity any company wishes to have.
All of this has prompted a rare, but not unheard of, out of band patch to be issued. The term may be a bit weird, but it simply refers to any patch Microsoft issues on a day that is NOT patch Tuesday. The update will push automatically, providing you have Windows Update turned on , which you should.
"The majority of customers have automatic updates enabled and will not need to take any action because protections will be downloaded and installed automatically. If you’re unsure if you have automatic updates, or you haven’t enabled Automatic Update, now is the time", says Microsoft's Dustin Childs.
All of this, in itself, is big news, but Microsoft did something unprecedented with this update. The company has made this patch available for the supposedly unsupported Windows XP. Childs states "We have made the decision to issue a security update for Windows XP users. Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, and we continue to encourage customers to migrate to a modern operating system, such as Windows 7 or 8.1. Additionally, customers are encouraged to upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer, IE 11".
This is a bit of a mixed blessing. While it can be argued that it's the right thing to do, it also sets a bad precedent. With this patch Microsoft has silently acknowledged that it will continue to fix your out-dated operating system if something bad happens. So pay no attention to modern versions of Windows, just keep running your vintage version and rely on the company to save your butt if something really bad happens.