Your ATM might be running on Linux soon

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On April 8, Microsoft ends support for Windows XP, which means thousands of businesses and users globally will no longer have official updates and support from MS for their operating system. On Microsoft’s end, this is the normal cycle: stop supporting older software after a couple of new iterations are in place. Now with Windows 8 having over a year under its belt, it leaves Windows 7 as the “old” Windows to be supported and XP as the “let it out to pasture” OS.

The trouble is, some businesses made huge upgrades to XP a few years ago and are now facing high costs in order to upgrade again. Yet the new Windows is not always a fit. ATM makers and managers are one of those groups. While XP had good network support and was easily integrated as a “back end” OS for the generally still text-based machines that we all use to get money and make deposits, Windows 8 is, well, not as friendly.

The ATM Industry Association (ATMIA) says that synchronizing hardware and software upgrade cycles has been problematic and is often just not done. Taking control of the software side, by dropping Windows in favor of a more standardized, internally-controlled option, has been tempting for many financial institutions and some have taken the leap. The most popular option? Creating proprietary, small package versions of Linux. According to the ATMIA, “a small group of large operators” are the ones working on this as a solution. Things from there tend to trickle down to others over time.

About 95 percent of the world’s ATMs today are powered by Windows XP and about 60 percent of those in the U.S. will be using it after April 8. ¬†Given that about 30 percent of the point-of-sale systems at convenience stores and petroleum retailers are Linux-based, it would make sense to use a compatible system for ATMs which often see the most traffic at those locations, sometimes with the cash register itself being used as one in “cash back” transactions.


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