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A year after Windows XP's death, users keep it alive

Despite Microsoft's insinuations, numbers show that Vista's adoption has been poor. Is it time to look forward to Windows 7?

By Galen Gruman, InfoWorld
June 30, 2009 03:51 PM ET

InfoWorld - A year ago today, Microsoft pulled the plug on Windows XP, no longer selling new copies in most venues. The June 30 kill date for XP followed a six-month outcry from users about Windows Vista, with demands that Microsoft keep XP available alongside Vista for the many users who were frustrated by ease-of-use, compatibility, and retraining issues.

In response to the public outpouring of support for XP -- more than 200,000 people signed InfoWorld's "Save XP" petition, for example -- Microsoft did delay XP's formal death from the original Feb. 1, 2008, date to June 30, 2008.

[ See if your PC can handle Windows 7 with InfoWorld's Windows Sentinel tool. | Follow the progress of Windows 7 in Randall C. Kennedy's Enterprise Desktop blog and InfoWorld's Technology: Windows newsletter. ]

And Microsoft let XP remain available in a variety of specialty channels. For example, Microsoft let companies that build "white box PCs" for customers sell new XP licenses until February 2009. It allows PC makers "downgrade" new systems to XP, so Dell and Hewlett-Packard continue even today to offer XP on a selection of models. (But such OEM downgrades will end on July 31, 2009.) Enterprises with corporatewide licenses and any user with a full or upgrade license has "downgrade" rights on their PCs to install XP Pro over Vista Business. And it has kept XP available for netbooks, though largely because most cannot run Vista. Plus, stores such as Amazon.com continue to sell XP, using inventory acquired before Microsoft's June 30, 2008, general kill date for the OS. (Microsoft's technical support for XP will continue to April 2014 in some cases.)

Gartner analyst Michael Silver attributes XP's persistence, and Microsoft's compromises over killing it outright, to that public outcry.

But now that Windows 7 is less than four months away, is it time for XP users to move to a Windows 7 future and finally let XP go?

The resistance to Vista was historic, as the numbers show

Microsoft officials periodically tell the public that Vista is the most successful version of Windows ever sold, but the numbers belie those claims. Officially, Microsoft has no comment on the rate of Vista adoption, and a spokeswoman said Microsoft doesn't stand behind the claims of its employees.

Gartner's Silver notes that when Microsoft does talk Vista numbers, it talks about shipped licenses. But anyone who "downgrades" to XP was still shipped a Vista license, which distorts the numbers -- significantly.

An analysis of thousands of PCs worldwide, though concentrated in North America, shows that more than half of business PCs have downgraded to XP, as have about 12 percent of consumer PCs (which have very few options to "downgrade" as compared to business PCs).

The data is based on the XPnet community of PCs, which counts 17,000 systems that contribute data on their configurations and performance attributes. (You can add your PC to the mix -- and get free, Web-based performance monitoring tool for your PC -- by joining the InfoWorld Windows Sentinel program.) InfoWorld contributing editor and Enterprise Desktop blogger Randall C. Kennedy runs XPnet and compiled the data for InfoWorld. The table below and chart above show the percentage of manufacturers' systems that shipped with Vista but are actually running XP. The Dell and Lenovo systems are primarily used in business and enterprise settings, while the other manufacturers' systems are concentrated in home settings.

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