Five More Months Tacked Onto XP Availability Roadmap

Apparently bending to pressure from partner OEMs who continue to report customers continuing to demand Windows XP, Microsoft decided this morning to extend the availability of the older operating system series to the retail channel and to partners from January to June 2008, as it maintains availability to system builders clear through to January 2009.

The move comes several months after Dell reported it would continue offering Windows XP as an option for its systems as long as it could. However, another possible contributing factor could be the company's plan for XP Service Pack 3. A check of the company's service pack roadmap today shows the company has only tentative faith in its ability to produce SP3 by as late as next June.

In a prepared Q&A for Microsoft this morning, corporate vice president for Windows product management Mike Nash attempted to put the best spin he could on the move. He systematically eliminated the more obvious possible causes for his company's decision, leaving behind the option that Microsoft is just trying to be nice.

"While we've been pleased with the positive response we've seen and heard from customers using Windows Vista, there are some customers who need a little more time to make the switch to Windows Vista," said Nash in an attempt to sound comforting.

"As it turns out, our official policy as of 2002 is that versions of Windows are available through our retail and direct OEM partners for four years after they ship. Obviously this policy didn't work with Windows XP given Windows Vista's delivery date. As a practical matter, most of our previous operating system releases were available for about two years after the new version shipped, so maybe we were a little ambitious to think that we would need to make Windows XP available for only a year after the release of Windows Vista."

Other than its mild chastisement of customers for procrastinating on its otherwise well-tuned roadmap, Nash's discussion read today less like an explanation of XP's extended life and more like a pep talk for Vista. He said there are twice as many PCs being sold on an annual basis now than at the time XP was first introduced, and that a great many of those units - by virtue of the declining scale of costs - are low-price systems. For those systems, it appears, customers may be perceiving XP as the preferable choice.

But that's just a temporary setback, it appears, as Nash promises to be more sensitive to how customers' needs evolve, as though the act of evolution itself were a postponement of the inevitable.

"It's early days still, but if things continue as we're expecting, Windows Vista will be the fastest selling operating system in our history," reported Nash.

"And while that's gratifying on one level when you consider all the architectural changes we introduced, it also suggests we've done a lot of things right in delivering value to our customers. But we want to be sensitive to how our customers' needs and experiences continue to evolve, so we'll continue to listen and look at how we can help our customers through the transition to Windows Vista."

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