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Originally published September 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 27, 2007 at 9:31 PM

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Microsoft extends retail-sales life of Windows XP

Microsoft is extending by five months the deadline to buy Windows XP at retail or with a new PC. The move comes in response to feedback...

Seattle Times technology reporter

Microsoft is extending by five months the deadline to buy Windows XP at retail or with a new PC.

The move comes in response to feedback from customers — particularly small businesses — that want more time with the old system before buying its replacement, Windows Vista.

The company had planned to cut off XP sales through the retail and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) channels on Jan. 30, 2008, one year after the launch of Vista. The deadline, extended in an announcement Thursday, is now June 30, 2008. System builders, the smaller PC manufacturers that make custom computers for individual customers, will still be able to install Windows XP through Jan. 30, 2009.

Kevin Kutz, director of Windows Client at Microsoft, said "we might have been a bit overambitious" when the company scheduled to end XP sales only 12 months after Vista was released. XP, launched in November 2001, is the de facto standard on most of the world's PCs.

In the past, Microsoft has continued selling its old operating systems for 18 months to two years after the release of a new version.

Does this mean that Vista sales lack the "wow" factor Microsoft had hoped for?

Kutz, anticipating the question, said no.

"What we're seeing and what our PC maker partners are affirming is Windows Vista is doing great," Kutz said.

Al Gillen, system software analyst with IDC, said the decision by Microsoft to extend XP sales is not a good indicator of the success or failure of Vista.

"If Windows Vista was selling really well and people were just falling all over themselves to get on it, there would still be customers that couldn't, for whatever reason, ... make the move in the short term," Gillen said.

Those reasons include concerns about application compatibility, regulatory compliance issues, and lack of IT staff or sufficiently powerful hardware to make the switch to Vista.

Microsoft has made a series of announcements charting the progress and market acceptance of Windows Vista. It sold 20 million copies in February, the first full month on the market. It reached 40 million by the first week of May. The latest figure is 60 million sold as of July.

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The company has consistently said Vista sales have outpaced XP, but it also acknowledged that there are about twice as many computers and computer purchases made in 2007 than in 2001, when XP debuted, so it's hard to make a meaningful comparison between the two. Kutz said the critical category of large business customers has been adopting the operating system at a faster rate lately.

Consumers and small businesses have asked PC manufacturers to continue offering XP, and many influential tech bloggers have written critically about their experience with Vista and subsequent decision to "downgrade" back to XP.

In April, Dell announced it would restore Windows XP as an operating system option on several laptop and desktop computers for consumers and small businesses. In fact, one of the first posts on the PC maker's IdeaStorm customer feedback Web site, launched in February, was titled "Don't eliminate XP just yet."

John Dayan, vice president for marketing and business development at Hewlett-Packard, said the majority of customers asking for a longer window in which to buy XP machines are small businesses.

"Those guys have some of the same complexities of migrating to a new OS that a midsize or enterprise company would have, but they don't always have the IT resources to do that," he said. "So it just takes a little bit longer."

Microsoft also recently started giving business customers who purchase Vista the right to downgrade to XP.

Many businesses wait for the first service pack before migrating and Microsoft clarified its plans for a Windows Vista service pack a month ago. Vista Service Pack 1, which will include changes that many users are getting through automatic updates online, is due out in the first three months of 2008.

Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or bromano@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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