Microsoft closes the window on XP

When Microsoft released Windows Vista in January, 2007, the company predicted that it would be the most successful version of the operating system in its 23-year history. To Microsoft’s chagrin, their expectations went unfulfilled.

Even before the product’s launch, developers complained they had insufficient time and information to prepare device drivers and applications to take advantage of the new APIs. Then there were problems with performance, licensing costs, and most notably, minimum hardware requirements.

Vista’s requirements were anything but minimal.

Faced with an operating system they’d be unable to run without extensive and costly hardware upgrades, many users — both corporate and home — opted to stick with Microsoft’s tried and true Windows XP.

Of course, Microsoft went ahead with Vista and made plans to discontinue XP, apparently believing they could force users to migrate to Vista. The user community didn’t appreciate Microsoft’s tactics and launched a “Save XP” petition. For a while, Microsoft listened.

Until now.

As of June 30, 2008, Microsoft has stopped selling XP to major computer manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard and Dell to ship with new machines. Anyone who wants XP on their new machines will have to purchase Vista and then legally downgrade. Small PC shops will still be able to sell individual copies of XP until January 2009. After that, although XP will no longer be available for sale, Microsoft has promised to provide full support for existing users through 2009 and limited support until 2014.

In the meantime, Microsoft plans to release Windows 7 some time in 2009. Unfortunately, that version of the OS will be based on Vista’s technology. So it remains to be seen whether Windows 7 will escape the problems that afflicted Windows Vista, and even if it does, whether it will be any more popular with the buying public. Simply put, Microsoft has lost credibility and respect with many users.

For those not willing to take the chance, now may be a good time to upgrade in a different direction, to Apple’s OS X or to one of the various distributions of Linux. Either option provides a more than workable solution without the vagaries of Microsoft’s whims.