Windows XP's Death Is for Real, Microsoft Official Explains

Microsoft is serious about June 30 being the end date for selling XP licenses with new computers.

Microsoft is really serious about this Monday, June 30, being the end date for selling Windows XP licenses with new computers -- so serious that Senior Vice President Bill Veghte wrote a letter clarifying some of the details.

Windows XP's life had been extended once before, but this time the bells are ringing on the venerable operating system, with a few exceptions. And Veghte's letter pointed to the future, beyond the current Windows Vista operating system. He gave an estimated arrival time for "Windows 7," the code name for Microsoft's still developing operating system.

Expect to see Windows 7 arriving sometime around January of 2010, Veghte wrote.

Addressing the Microsoft partner community, Veghte confirmed that Windows 7 will not be a new kernel, but will be built on Windows Vista. Partners can expect less of a surprise in terms of integration and migration efforts than was the case with Vista.

"You've also let us know you don't want to face the kinds of incompatibility challenges with the next version of Windows you might have experienced early with Windows Vista," Veghte explained. "As a result, our approach with Windows 7 is to build off the same core architecture as Windows Vista so the investments you and our partners have made in Windows Vista will continue to pay off with Windows 7. Our goal is to ensure the migration process from Windows Vista to Windows 7 is straightforward."

So does June 30 really signal the end of Windows XP? The answer is that Windows XP is not quite dead yet, but it is mortally wounded, and will limp along under the legal fine print for a few more years.

For instance, Microsoft plans to continue to provide security updates for Windows XP Service Pack 3 until April of 2014, Veghte explained. So current users of Windows XP can expect almost six more years of patch support.

In terms of buying Windows XP directly instead of Windows Vista, that's a little tricky. Microsoft plans to license Windows Vista Home Edition and Windows XP Starter to low-cost computer makers. XP won't be available for new state-of-the-art PCs after June 30, but there's potentially an extension to that deadline if the PC comes from a "system builder." A Microsoft spokesperson described the availability of XP licensing by e-mail in this way:

  • "Windows XP will no longer be available for purchase from Microsoft for general retail and OEM partners as of June 30, 2008
  • System builders will be able to purchase until January 31, 2009
  • For Windows XP Starter (in emerging markets) and Windows XP Home for NetBooks and NetTops (formerly known as ULCPCs), the date is June 30, 2010
  • Per our longstanding practice allowing 'downgrade' rights, enterprise customers and purchasers of Windows Vista Ultimate or Windows Vista Business editions can choose to downgrade to Windows XP Professional if they feel they need more time to get ready for Windows Vista."

The difference between a system builder and an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) such as Dell or HP is that an OEM buys software licensing directly from Microsoft, whereas system builders buy it from distributors, the spokesperson explained. The extended date for system builders isn't a loophole but is part of Microsoft's licening agreement, she added.

"As of Jan. 31, 2009 system builders will no longer be able to get XP from Microsoft," the spokesperson wrote. "Whatever stock they still have at this point, they can use as they wish."

An example of a "NetTop" OEM is Asus with its compact Eee PC offering using XP Home. The One Laptop per Child association falls into the emerging market supplier camp. OLPC had been using open-Sugar Linux OS to supply computers to underprivileged kids, but it also plans to use Windows XP.

OEM computer equipment maker Dell pushed out its June 18 deadline of offering new PCs with Windows XP to June 26. The offer applies to Dell's "XPS 630, 720 H2C and M1730 systems." After that time, users can buy Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Professional and downgrade to XP Professional. However, it'll cost up to $50 to do so.

Only those who buy Vista Business or Vista Ultimate editions will have XP downgrade rights, and they can only downgrade to XP Professional. Windows Vista Enterprise licensees have similar downgrade rights. Those purchasing the less expensive Vista Basic or Vista Home Edition will not have such XP downgrade rights.

It may still be possible for those wanting to get Windows XP after the June 30 date to find the boxed software from a retail outlet or over online sales such as E-Bay. The Microsoft spokesperson said that "Retailers and OEMs can keep selling XP for as long as they have stock."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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