Will XP survive or won’t it?

UPDATED 04/03/08: Microsoft confirmed today that XP will live on for a while, at least in limited form. The company said it would continue to offer Windows XP Home via OEMs for ultra-low-cost computers until 2010 or when the next version of the operating system ships. Microsoft had previously also said that it would continue to offer XP Starter Edition until 2010 but Home is more full-featured than Starter. Starter can can run just three applications simultaneously, for example, and has no home-networking features.

Reports began circulating on Tuesday that Microsoft would keep yet another instance of XP alive past the company's June 30

cutoff date. Intel formally showed off its new Atom processors, designed for handhelds and sub-$300 PCs, later this week. Devices that use Atom will lack the kind of storage and memory horsepower needed to run Vista. Microsoft therefore has a choice - concede this entire emerging market to Linux or allow Atom devices and low-cost PCs such as the Asus Eee to ship with XP.

Microsoft indicated what its choice would be long ago. At the time it issued the five-month extension for sales of XP, it also announced that XP Starter Edition (the one popular in developing nations) will be available through January 30, 2010. Now there are two XP editions that will stick around for a while, albeit only for ultra-low-cost computers that traditionally also offer a lot less razzle-dazzle than a stanard PC. Still, analyst wonder if these low-cost computers will become popular even with customers who could afford a higher-end machine.

After June 30, Microsoft confirmed that it will no longer sell other editions of XP via retail outlets or allow OEMs to sell it, a five-month extension from the original cut-off date of Jan. 31, 2008. Most OEMs have long since switched to Vista but that doesn't mean that enterprises will be forced to switch anytime soon. If your company needs to refresh its PCs and wants to continue using Windows, Microsoft allows systems integrators and other services firms to continue to install XP on customer machines through January 30, 2009.

Given that Service Pack 3 of XP was just released in late March, enterprises may be able to coast a long time without Vista. While XP3 will be the last full service pack, Microsoft has previously said that ongoing support of XP won't cease until April, 2009, and extended support won't stop until April, 2014.

A research report released from Forrester this week shows that enterprises have so far stood pat with XP, reports Windows Updated.

Earlier this week, Forrester Research released results of monthly surveys during 2007 that polled more than 50,000 enterprise computer users. According to the surveys, Windows XP usage remained constant throughout the year at slightly over 89 percent of all Windows users in businesses. Windows Vista, meanwhile, grew from nearly nothing to just over 6 percent, but appeared to get its gains at the expense of Windows 2000, not the dominant Windows XP. A Forrester researcher said the data hinted that companies might hang on to Windows XP until the next iteration, Windows 7, is available in late 2009 or early 2010, skipping Vista altogether.

Still, the likelihood that Microsoft will bow to user pressure beyond June 30 and keep selling full versions of XP is very low, many analysts say. With Windows 7 on its way and so much more work to be done on Vista to make users happy (should Microsoft care to do it), XP's days will likely stay numbered.

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