The time has come for us to put our feet down. Over the last few months, we have battled with support for Windows XP in our software, and in some cases, we’ve been forced to lessen the overall quality and consistency of the product. It is this, in combination with Microsoft’s imminent end of support for it, that have resulted in our decision to end Windows XP support.
We know this is a decision that will not be easily accepted by everyone, but it is a decision we have to make. Targeting an operating system that is a decade old creates unneeded challenges. Among these challenges are:
Inconsistent library and framework availability. For example, the MediaPlayer class that smartCARS uses to play radio content is unavailable on Windows XP, but no comparable library is readily available. When we developed this feature, we had two options: make a Windows Vista or later only version or develop our own, in-house radio streaming system. Although we are fully capable of the latter, it would turn a two week development effort into a two month effort. This, in turn, creates additional costs and increases our development time considerably. The MediaPlayer class, of course, is not the only feature lost by supporting XP.
Testing. Windows XP accounts for only 17% of the global market and finding a substantial test-user base is difficult. Most of the people who volunteered to help us test XP compatibility with smartCARS did not have Flight Simulator installed (which reduces testing to merely “does it open?”). Mostly, we, have only been able to test in a virtual machine or remote-desktop environment.
Security. Let’s face it – as software is updated, it becomes more secure. The hundreds of “Security Updates for Windows” that you see in Windows Update throughout the year help to keep you safe from new threats. Similarly, operating without these updates renders your system less secure. Windows XP was created before many of those threats were even imagined. Although there may be an update now, there will come a point when there are flaws that cannot be fixed practically. As a side note, about two years ago, I worked at a local computer repair shop part-time, and approximately 80% of the computers that needed virus removals were running Windows XP. That’s not really a fair arguing point, but especially when you consider that XP users hold a minority of the market share, it’s something to consider.
When we initially released smartCARS, it was only compatible with Vista or later, but due to user feedback, we expanded our support to include XP. As development continued, we began to realize we needed to make a change again. We may be one of the first developers in this community to make this decision publicly, but we are confident that we will not be the last. We are not alone in our end of support for XP outside of the FS market, either. Microsoft has officially announced that they will no longer support XP after April, 2014. This means that they will not issue security updates, they will not fix problems, and they will offer assisted support.
What does this mean for TFDi projects?
Starting with the official smartCARS 1.3.3 release, Windows XP users will no longer be offered support. We will not prevent our installers from installing on to a system running XP, however, we will utilize whichever Vista or later-only libraries we deem necessary and we will not test on Windows XP. It is still too early to tell how the 717 will operate on Windows XP, however, its performance on XP-based systems will not be a concern to our developers.
We offer our apologies to any Windows XP users who feel abandoned, as this is not our intent. We seek only to be able to develop our software to its full potential. By supporting such an archaic system, we limit that potential. As Microsoft has said, we encourage our followers and the followers of our partners to upgrade to a modern operating system.
To read more about Microsoft’s official end of support, click here.
Edit (6/8/2014): New versions of smartCARS do indeed prevent installation on Windows XP as we have started using libraries not available on it.