Microsoft’s decision to discontinue OEM and packaged sales of Windows XP at the end of June – leaving businesses and consumers with the less-than-celebrated Vista as their only choice of Windows operating system on new PCs – has drawn considerable criticism and led to an outpouring of support for the continuation of XP sales.

Over 75,000 people have signed Infoworld’s ‘Save XP’ petition; a Web site complete with an XP countdown timer, video tributes, and a series of articles detailing why a large number of businesses, organizations and consumers are unhappy with Microsoft’s decision to force them into adopting the yet-to-be widely accepted Vista operating system.

In late November, a survey of 961 IT professionals conducted by King Research found 90 percent of respondents had concerns about migrating to Vista. Apprehension stemmed primarily from stability issues, but also due to compatibility problems and the cost in both hardware and software terms of migrating. 44 percent said they would consider non-Windows operating systems to avoid these migration issues, with many stating that virtualization had made it easier to implement alternative operating systems.

In response to Infoworld’s petition and other pro-XP outpourings of support, a Microsoft spokesperson in the US told Computerworld: “We’re aware of it, but are listening first and foremost to feedback we hear from partners and customers about what makes sense based on their needs. That’s what informed our decision to extend the availability of XP initially, and what will continue to guide us.”

The spokesperson said Windows will not disappear completely from the worldwide market place after the June cutoff, stating the software giant understood that some market segments such as small businesses and emerging market customers require “a little more time” before they upgrade to Vista.

“Therefore OEMs will continue to sell XP through June 30th 2008 and system builders will be able to sell XP through January 2009 as they cater to the small business markets. In emerging markets where XP Starter Edition is sold, it will still be available through June 30th, 2010.”

According to Infoworld’s Save-XP site, many businesses and consumers aren’t excited about dispensing their time and money upgrading to a new OS that they believe does not offer enough considerable advantages over XP, and are not keen on dealing with the incompatibility issues upgrading invariably causes. Their argument is simple – ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

Among those who signed Infoworld’s petition was Al, who posted the following message on January 14:

“We have got to save Windows XP. As of now, it is one of the most stable Windows systems…Windows Vista has still not been debugged enough and a good deal of (rather important) software is still glitchy under Vista. So until the situation is improved on both Microsoft and Third Party Vendors sides, we need to preserve Windows XP some more time.”

Or this, from Kurt Morin, posted January 30:

“I have been working with windows ever since Windows 3.1. I support the desktop environment in a public school system and at this time because of hardware limitations [we] are running a mix of Windows 2000 and XP. There is no way this hardware (too old to upgrade) will run Vista and because of budget constraints will not be able to purchase new hardware. I have nothing against Windows but I do have a problem with Mr. Gates forcing us to eventually have to upgrade by dropping support of the other OS’s.” —PB—

But some are supportive of Vista. This from Zygote, posted January 21:

“Have any of you nay-sayers actually used Vista for any length of time? Remember the learning curve when we went from 98/2000 to XP; Same thing, put some effort in and you might not be so negative about it. I’ve had Vista on my laptop virtually since launch and I haven’t had any major issues with it.”

Indeed there may be a sharp increase in Vista adoption at the end of this month when Microsoft releases Service Pack 1, which many businesses and organizations traditionally wait for before upgrading.

But in a Computerworld Australia poll asking when respondent’s companies will upgrade to Windows Vista and Office 2007, 70 per cent said they will look at alternatives before making a decision.

In response to the question of whether discontinuing XP could throw more people over to Apple or Linux operating systems, or whether XP would quietly go back on sale like Windows 98 did after the less than successful Windows ME release, Microsoft’s spokesperson declined to comment.

The company did however, insist that the adoption of Vista was well on track and in line with it’s projections.

“Globally we can confirm there have been over 100 million licenses sold and more than 42 million PCs now licensed under volume licensing agreements.”

“Overall the business adoption of Windows Vista in Australia is on a normal trajectory at this point in its lifecycle, at a rate that is similar to past releases. We are pleased to see positive market indicators that point towards adoption and deployment continuing to grow.

“We’re seeing positive indicators that we’re already starting to move from the early adoption phase into the mainstream and that more and more businesses are beginning their planning and deployment of Windows Vista.”

Still, vendors such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Fujitsu, and more recently, NEC, all offer the opportunity to downgrade to XP pro.

NEC stated that customer demand for the XP downgrade varied, with large corporates generally slower to adopt Vista than the SMB market.

Comment: edit@itworldcanada.com

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