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UK government pays Microsoft £5.5M to extend Windows XP support

The UK government has signed a £5.548 million contract with Microsoft for a year’s worth of Windows XP support after the operating system’s support reaches end of life on 8 April.

Under the agreement, Microsoft will maintain critical and important security updates for Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 until 8 April 2015. Hints that the deal was about to be agreed were first revealed by CRN.

According to a Cabinet Office spokesperson, the deal will provide “continuity for all eligible government and public sector organisations while they migrate on to alternative operating systems”.

The deal was signed by Crown Commercial Service (CCS), the new legal entity replacing Government Procurement Service, which was formerly Buying Solutions.

Crown Commercial Service represents the government’s efforts to procure as a single customer to benefit from its scale. The Cabinet Office spokesperson said that the Microsoft deal was an “excellent example of collaborative purchasing”, and achieves a multi-million pound saving compared with individual public sector organisations negotiating separate support deals with the vendor.

“We are delighted that this agreement will deliver projected savings in excess of £20 million against standard pricing in the next 12 months,” said Rob Wilmot, Crown Commercial representative for software.

"Breathing space"

In an interview with ComputerWeekly, Sarah Hurrell, commercial director for IT and telecoms at the CCS, said that the extended support gave public sector organisations some “breathing space” to migrate away from the end-of-life Microsoft products.

Only those with “robust” migration plans can use the extended support.

“Plans are already in place for public sector organisations to migrate to other operating systems over the next 12 months. This deal provides vital continuity. It is anticipated that the majority of organisations will have completed upgrades by April 2015,” the Cabinet Office spokesperson said.

While the government refused to say how many devices in the public sector are still running Windows XP, which launched in 2001, figures from Netmarketshare.com show that 27.69 percent (as of 31 March 2014) of the world’s desktops and laptops still use the legacy OS.

Further, in September 2013, EHI Intelligence revealed that 85 percent of NHS desktops were still running on Windows XP.

One public sector organisation that might not need access to the extended support is the Highways Agency, which, in a parliamentary written answer in February, said that it was in the process of upgrading from Windows XP and Office 2003 to Windows 7 and Office 2010 by the 8 April deadline, at a cost of £2.010 million.

Meanwhile, the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham yesterday revealed that it is rolling out Google Chromebooks to its staff to ensure continuity after the XP deadline.

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