Microsoft's XP reaches "end-of-life" on April 8. But Apple's "Snow Leopard" (OS X 10.6) is already there—Apple is no longer patching the OS.
Consumers and enterprises alike must be aware of these developments and what they represent. A vital OS is regularly patched against security vulnerabilities. An OS that's reached EOL isn't. Given the current security atmosphere, you want your desktops/laptops to use an OS that's monitored and patched by the manufacturer.
Cave of the Snow Leopard
Apple's 10.6 iteration of OS X is still widely in use. It was introduced on August 28, 2009, and many Mac users consider it superior to latter OS X versions.
The current (and final) version is 10.6.8—which was released in mid-2011. It's the last release of OS X to support the 32-bit Intel Core Solo and Intel Core Duo CPUs. Apple's Snow Leopard support-page is here.
Tech moves quickly, and now Intel's newer chips power Macs while Apple promotes its latest OS: Mavericks, now at 10.9.2. The last couple of "big cat" OSs—Lion and Mountain Lion—are still supported. But Snow Leopard has been sent back to its cave.
What this means: you can still use 10.6.8, which is good because some users also own hardware blahblahblah. But if you do use the OS, keep it "air-gapped": that is, don't connect it to the Internet.
Amazing as it seems, computers can be usefd without a Net connection. The idea that they must be "always-on" is a fallacy: older Macs make great multimedia centers, word processors, storage hubs, etc. In fact, most of the things computers handled before there WAS an Internet (younger techies may be perplexed, but it's true).
Given Apple's latest OS X security problems, it's good practice to keep Snow Leopard-powered Macs off the Net. Apple wasn't forthcoming about that situation, nor are they trumpeting the demise of SL. Enterprise users should upgrade even if it involves buying new hardware.
World's longest-lasting OS
Microsoft's XP was released to manufacturers in August 2001, and currently powers about 29% of all PCs (including all Macs).
For an OS this old to have a market share that large is a testament to XP's usefulness. But Microsoft has announced that XP will reach EOL on April 8, about a month from now. In a different approach from Apple's silent treatment, Microsoft has a page devoted to convincing users to shed the moribund OS.
It's worth reading. "After April 8, 2014, technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available, including automatic updates that help protect your PC," says Microsoft's Web page.
"If you continue to use Windows XP after support ends, your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses," it says. "Also, as more software and hardware manufacturers continue to optimize for more recent versions of Windows, you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.