SANDY BERGER: Microsoft Windows XP -- The End Is Coming
On June 30, Microsoft started the death march for Windows XP.
As of that date, Microsoft stopped shipments of Windows XP as a stand-alone, shrink-wrapped product. So after supplies are exhausted, you won't be able to go into a store and purchase Windows XP.
Microsoft also stopped most sales to PC manufacturers. So Dell, Lenovo, HP and others will not get any new copies of Windows XP to install on their mainstream computers.
However, Windows XP, Microsoft's longest-lived and best-loved operating system, isn't going to vanish overnight. You will still see copies of the XP software and/or computers with Windows XP in stores until inventories are depleted.
Microsoft has made four important concessions that will also keep XP alive:
n Microsoft will support Windows XP until April 2014. It will offer updates, security patches and technical support until that time.
n Smaller local PC makers can continue to sell PCs with Windows XP until January 2009.
n Computers with limited hardware capabilities, which are sometimes called ultra-low cost PCs (ULCPC), can sell with Windows XP Home until June 2010.
n With the purchase of Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate, the two most expensive versions of Vista, a customer will be able to move back to Windows XP Professional via what Microsoft is calling "downgrade rights." Details on how this will be handled have not been clearly defined to the public at this time. It is even possible that different manufacturers will handle this in different ways.
To the home users, this all means very little, unless you need a new computer and are violently opposed to Windows Vista. To business users, these new policies and extensions mean that they will be able to keep their fleets of Windows XP computers running for several more years.
Microsoft has announced that Windows 7, the next version of Windows, will be available in 2010, so many businesses will be able to skip Vista entirely and instead move to Windows 7. Intel has already announced that it will do just that.
What this means for everyone is that Microsoft, while not writing off Vista, has made it an "interim" operating system. Microsoft is still pushing Windows Vista.
It recently announced that Vista now supports 77,000 printers, cameras, speakers and other devices and components. It also brags that more than 140 million copies of Windows Vista have already been sold, making it the fastest-selling operating system in Microsoft history. So Windows Vista is not a flash-in-the-pan like Windows ME which was quickly replaced by Windows XP.
In my opinion, Vista is both better and safer than Windows XP. If you are already using Vista or plan to make the move, it is not a bad choice. Yet Vista has become a lame duck.
Microsoft definitely has a dilemma on its hands. The only way they will come out of this is if they can get Windows 7 out quickly while making it faster, safer and easier to use. It also needs to give it a good name and get the members of the press behind it.
I'm not sure if the lumbering giant can pull that off -- especially if Apple and/or Linux find a way to take advantage of this Microsoft predicament!
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compukiss.com/happycomputing.
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