As you may all know, Microsoft will officially retire XP support in April 2014...
The Retail version has been discontinued a long ago...
Even those who have legal copies of XP seem to have trouble activating their licenses...
This is something that I'm wondering about.
What will happen to XP after?
Will it be "free to use"?
Assuming anyone would want to use an outdated system, there shouldn't be a problem since Microsoft won't be making money from it anyways...
Or will it just be "permanently discontinued"?
It will be permanently discontinued. Microsoft won't make it free to use, because then people would not buy 7, or 8, or whatever. You can buy an upgrade version of 7 or 8 (I think 8, I know 7) based on your XP license, but will have to do a complete fresh install instead of an upgrade-in-place.
Many people will stick with XP, but their systems will get less and less compatible and less and less secure as updates and security fixes are issued for supported versions. Hackers and script kiddies will have a field day with the unsupported XP systems.
Most business that have remained with XP will upgrade to 7. Business areas running older Server versions have probably been keeping up, and will not be affected for the most part.
Some will update to 8 and find that they have downgraded their multipurpose computers to being large smartphones, minus the phone. Massive displeasure with this will either lead to the re-divergence of Windows for PC and Windows for phone or push the savvy computer-using world to Linux distros.
The Islanders will finally be in contention for the Cup.
I'm kind of curious about what will happen with the XP mode in 7 that's really an XP virtual machine.
As far as I am aware, Windows '95 has yet to be declared "permanently discontinued". Many Hospitals herein the UK still have many machines happily running on '95.
XP will live on in my view - and certainly in my office. A lot of companies will rue the day they switch to W7 but those which remain with XP will remain relatively problem free. If M$ see this coming, they may bring out a so-called Corporate Edition of W7 which will base its networking around the XP platform. Homegroup will not be an option.