TOKYO -- More than 13 million personal computers in Japan will be exposed to higher risks of infection with viruses starting in mid-April, experts warn.
These computers are still running the aging Windows XP operating system, for which Microsoft Corp. will stop providing support on April 9.
An estimated 7.23 million Windows XP-based PCs are still in use by companies, accounting for 20 percent of all PCs they use. Migration to newer operating systems such as Windows 8.1 has been slow, especially at small and midsize companies as managers are unaware of the problem or want to avoid costs needed to update their computer systems.
According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in October last year, prefectural and other local governments had a total of around 2 million PCs including 722,166 machines running Windows XP. Of the Windows XP-based PCs, 266,231 will not have upgraded to new software by April this year.
Local governments have been slow in updating such machines as their business systems, including handling data on taxation and residents, use Windows XP.
If a company or local government shifts to a newer operating system, it needs to not only upgrade PCs' software but also make its spreadsheets, calculating and other programs workable under the new operating system. Necessary work takes several months.
Microsoft Japan Co. will conduct seminars to support smaller firms' migration to new operating systems through early April in cooperation with more than 10 regional chambers of commerce and industry across Japan. The company has also introduced incentives such as deferring payments for new PCs until after April or paying interest on installment plans.
Sales agents of Microsoft Japan are also stepping up preparations for an end to support for Windows XP. Otsuka Corp., for example, has increased PCs in stock in expectation of a sharp increase in demand.
An estimated 5.97 million PCs owned by individuals, or 14 percent of such PCs, are running Windows XP, which was released in 2001. While PCs for personal use are losing ground to tablet computers, the coming end to support for the operating system will "create opportunities for digging out demand for PCs" among individuals, said an official at leading PC maker Fujitsu Ltd.
In fact, PC manufacturers have launched sales promotion campaigns such as price cuts and hikes in trade-in prices in a bid to capitalize on last-minute demand before the end to support for Windows XP and an increase in the consumption tax in April.