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    Microsoft’s long Windows XP goodbye

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver April 22-28, 2008; issue 965

    High Tech Office column

    With market acceptance of Windows Vista tepid at best, Microsoft has kept its long-lived predecessor, Windows XP – first released in 2001 – on the market, allowing computer manufacturers the option of offering it on new computers.
    According to Microsoft, however, the time has come to cut the cord.

    Despite online petitions, Microsoft confirmed on April 3 that June 30 would be the cutoff date. Afterwards, manufacturers will no longer be allowed to preload XP onto new systems. The cutoff was originally set for January 30, but after complaints from customers and resellers, Microsoft extended the date last fall.

    There are a few exceptions. After June 30, a scaled-down version of XP will be sold in some developing world countries. As well, XP can be pre-installed on so-called ULPCs – ultra low-cost PCs aimed primarily at overseas education markets. Having minimalist hardware capabilities, they’re unable to run Vista. ULPC manufacturers will be allowed to offer XP until June 30, 2010. Microsoft is hoping to keep Linux out of these lower-end markets.

    No name “white box” computer vendors (like the vast number of small Vancouver computer dealers) can continue to preload XP until January 2009. And corporate customers with volume-licence contracts for Vista can choose to “downgrade” systems and install XP. Dell, which still offers XP as an option, recently started a program to encourage corporate customers to move to Vista. Dell claims that its new “client migration solution” can help enterprises cut migration costs by as much as 62% while reducing labour an estimated 88%.

    Whatever the cut-off date, XP systems will continue to work. In fact, Microsoft is on the verge of releasing XP service pack 3. The company promises to continue free support of XP until April 2009 with free security fixes until 2014; paid support for non-security issues will be available until that date.

    While trying to move customers away from Vista’s XP predecessor, Microsoft is ramping up work on Vista’s successor, unofficially referred to as Windows 7. Word on the street has been to expect it sometime in 2010, but on April 4, Bill Gates dropped hints that it might show up next year. In a Miami speech to the Inter-Amercan Development Bank, he said: “Sometime in the next year or so we will have a new version.” Gates added that he was “…super-enthused about what it will do in lots of ways.”

    It’s unclear whether Gates was referring to beta testing the new version or its formal release. Other Microsoft representatives are saying only that they expect a successor to Vista about three years from that product’s January 2007 release.

    ZDNet Windows watcher Mary Jo Foley has heard that so-called Milestone 1 of Windows 7 was sent out to a small number of testers last December; she said she wouldn’t be surprised if an initial beta version will be out by late fall this year, which could result in a late 2009 release.

    While customers – particularly large organizations – have been dragging their feet about implementing Windows Vista, it’s a different story for Microsoft’s other cash cow. Microsoft Office 2007, released at the same time as Vista, is being rapidly adopted. A Forrester Research survey of IT decision makers in North American and Europe reported that over 40% had already deployed Office 2007, with nearly all noting that it would be in use in their organizations within the next 12 months. In many cases, Microsoft’s SharePoint Server 2007 was being deployed along with Office.

    While Microsoft has hoped that businesses would see Vista and Office 2007 as a linked pair, Forrester reported business adoption of Vista during 2007 at 6.3%. It also noted a lot of business interest in alternatives to Microsoft Office such as OpenOffice or Google Apps, but according to Forrester’s Kyle McNabb, “Less than 1% are giving any real fuel to (Microsoft) alternatives.” •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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