Microsoft says ‘hasta la vista XP’ - well, kinda

Regretfully they tell us, but firmly they compel us

Microsoft yesterday sent customers a letter reaffirming its plans to kill off Windows XP sales at the end of June and that system builders can continue to ship machines loaded with the OS until early 2009.

That widely-known caveat has been viewed by many as a considerable insurance policy for the software giant, which has failed to achieve sparkling sales of Vista, its upto date operating system.

Indeed many major OEMs including big hitters such as Dell have been clambering to throw customers reluctant to adopt Vista an XP lifeline.

That’s a move which, earlier this year, prompted Microsoft to extend sales of XP. By its original intentions, the OS would have been dead five months ago. But now customers can happily go back to the future with XP.

A Microsoft spokesman today preferred to put it thusly: “Per our longstanding practice allowing ‘downgrade’ rights, enterprise customers and purchasers of Windows Vista Ultimate or Windows Vista Business editions can choose to downgrade to Windows XP Professional if they feel the need to get ready for Windows Vista.”

So, from July onwards, anyone who wants the old OS will have to first buy versions of Vista then pay yet more to downgrade it to XP.

The company said in April this year that it will continue to sell Windows XP Home edition for the emerging class of "ultra-low-cost PCs," or ULCPCs. The operating system was granted a reprieve until mid-2010, but only for the diminutive laptops such as the Asus Eee PC and Intel Classmate PC, which lack the hardware necessary to run Vista adequately.

Senior MS veep and author of the XP letter Bill Veghte conceded yesterday that “our customers have made it clear to us that they want broader support for devices and applications in order to enjoy the overall [Vista] experience.

“During the last year, we have worked diligently with our hardware and software partners to improve compatibility to remove the barriers that prevent users from taking advantage of the important advancements Windows Vista delivers. It has been a year of exciting and critical progress,” he said.

Veghte also repeated Microsoft’s plans to make Windows 7 available to customers at the start of 2010.

He said that because of Vista’s incompatibility blunders, company execs, having undergone some deep and meaningfuls, decided with Windows 7 “to build off the same core architecture as Windows Vista so the investments you and our partners have made in Windows Vista will continue to pay off with Windows 7. Our goal is to ensure the migration process from Windows Vista to Windows 7 is straightforward.”

In other words, Microsoft really, really, really wants you to buy Vista, pretty please.

But it is happy for you to “downgrade” to XP, which has mainstream support from the firm until April 2009 and an extended support policy that runs to April 2014, and there could be light at the end of the tunnel for Redmond: Windows 7 (which to us sounds increasingly like Vista, mark two) will land about 18 months from now. ®

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