Microsoft’s 12-year-old Windows XP operating system powers 95 percent of the world’s automated teller machines, according to NCR, the largest ATM supplier in the US. While the idea of Windows powering ATMs may surprise consumers, XP runs in the background powering the software that bank customers interact with to withdraw money. An upcoming Windows XP support change from Microsoft means ATMs will need to be upgraded and modified throughout 2014. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the US has 420,000 ATMs, and the majority of them run XP and face a support cutoff from Microsoft soon. On April 8th, Microsoft plans to end support for Windows XP, leaving businesses still using XP, and 95 percent of ATMs, open to security and compliance risks.
While Microsoft has been warning customers about the deadline for years, the ATM industry has been slow to react. NCR tells The Verge that the majority of ATMs run the full version of XP, with support ending in April, while some use an Embedded version that's supported until 2016. Most machines will move to Windows 7, but ATM software firm KAL predicts that only 15 percent of US ATMs will be running Windows 7 by April. That leaves thousands of machines running out-of-date software, with some companies opting to purchase custom support contracts with Microsoft to extend the life of Windows XP. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that JPMorgan is one such company buying a one-year extension ahead of its Windows 7 deployment.
Windows 7 is the XP replacement of choice
If you’ve used an ageing ATM recently then you’ll likely be acutely aware of just how slow and cumbersome these machines are. While modern machines include touchscreen support and speedy navigation, older models typically use buttons and a basic user interface that’s frustratingly slow. Windows 7 appears to be the main choice to replace the ageing Windows XP machines, but some machines will require hardware upgrades, while others will need to be scrapped entirely and replaced to support the new OS.
JPMorgan admits 3,000 of its 19,000 ATMs will need "enhancements" ahead of the Windows 7 upgrade. These enhancements might be a costly headache for ATM manufacturers and banks, but the improvements are a win for customers who use these machines on a daily basis. While it’s not likely you’ll be able to browse the internet or send emails from ATMs any time soon, their basic functionality could significantly improve thanks to the death of Windows XP.