April 9 is D-day for Windows XP users all over the world, as this is the day Microsoft stops supporting the once ubiquitous operating system. The end of Microsoft’s support will practically mean no more security patches and developments for the XP operating system, a situation that according to industry experts will put more than 13 million personal computers in Japan at risk of virus and other attacks.
Japan is still highly reliant on Microsoft’s venerable OS, and Japan has a very high percentage of PCs still running Windows XP. As of the moment, there is an estimated 7.23 million Windows XP-based PCs in Japan, including ones being used by companies. This total accounts for around 20 percent of all PCs in Japan. The country has been slow to migrate over to Windows’ new versions, such as Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, the latter suffering from a global rut in terms of sales and popularity. This has been true especially at the level of Japan’s smaller and midsize firms, because managers are either unaware of the problem or want cut the costs of upgrading to the more current operating systems. In this category also are town, city and prefectural governments, which own around over 720,000 PCs that are still running Windows XP. According to a survey done by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry last October, around 37 percent of these machines (over 265,000 machines) will not be upgraded beyond the April deadline.
Local governments have been slower than most to upgrade their old machines because much of their administrative tasks, including the handling of residential and tax data, depends on software that runs only on Windows XP. If a local government unilaterally shifts to a newer OS, then it must also make sure that all the other software will successfully make the transition, a process that can cause headaches and spreads over several months. One particular Japanese prefectural government – the Aichi prefectural government – has actually come up with a practical and functional way of resolving the problem, the solution being, keep the machine running on Windows XP, but simply disconnect it from the Internet. In some cases, the plan is to physically tape up the Ethernet ports, just in case someone forgets that the XP machines are no longer allowed to connect to the Internet. This, for them, is a good way to keep the machines running with less danger of viruses.
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