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With previous versions of Windows, Microsoft used a transition period when old and new versions of Windows were available to help corporate customers manage their transition to the new version of the operating system.
This time Microsoft aims to put the ghosts of its Vista troubles to rest as soon as possible, and could stop selling Vista as soon as Windows 7 is released.
"We are still not sure if [computer makers] will be able to ship Vista once Windows 7 is made available. Having said that, an enterprise customer that purchases a PC with Windows 7 pre-installed is allowed to downgrade to Vista should they desire, similar to what we have today on Vista to XP," wrote Richard Francis, general manager and Windows client business group lead at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, in an e-mail.
Microsoft will stop supporting all versions of Vista in April 2012, Francis said.
The launch of Windows 7 could take place within a few months from now. Last week, the company released the final beta version of the software, one of the last steps before locking down the code and sending the finished operating system to computer makers.
Microsoft had high hopes for Vista, but users found the OS sluggish on some computers and they complained about the number of permission prompts required for some tasks. Dissatisfaction with Vista kept user demand high for Windows XP, but many companies -- including Eastman Chemical and Continental Airlines, among others listed on Microsoft's Web site -- decided to roll out Vista within their organizations.
Microsoft appears to be betting that Vista won't be missed once Windows 7 is released.
"It's been a long time since we've had a version of Windows that will actually run better [than the previous version] on the hardware that most customers have," said Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Windows product management group at Microsoft, during a conference call with reporters last Thursday.
Compared to Vista, Windows 7 will be faster and work better on systems such as netbooks, which have less powerful processors and less memory than other computers, he said.
While Microsoft hasn't detailed plans for Vista after the launch of Windows 7, Nash said Windows XP will continue to be available on netbooks for one year after the launch of the new operating system.