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Monday, 14 April 2008 20:50

Users demand the choice of either XP or Vista well beyond June 30

Microsoft’s plans to stop general sales of Windows XP to anyone that wants it, by June 30 this year, is running into a roadblock: customers that don’t want it to go, or at least, just yet. Will the consumer – and customer demand win, or will Microsoft have its way and impose the view of Vista on all but the ultra-low cost PC market where XP sales will now continue until 2010?

Today, it is possible to buy a computer with either the choice of Windows XP or Windows Vista, but this is likely to soon change.

Of course, it is also possible to buy computers with Mac OS X, flavours of Linux and even other operating systems on them (such as FreeDos), but the users that are battling to save XP from premature expiry aren’t probably aren’t thinking too much of those other OS and computing platform choices in the fight to ‘save Windows XP’.

As you’d expect, Microsoft wants to move everyone over to Windows Vista and cease supporting Windows XP. They’d also like anyone using earlier versions of Windows, such as Windows 2000 or, shock horror, even something as old as Windows 98 or 95, to upgrade to Microsoft's latest and, er... not so greatest.

That would be fine in a perfect world, but not everyone upgrades at the same time, and just because Microsoft wants it to be so doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight – even if it will happen (as Vista's percentage of users increases over time).

This ‘natural increase over time’ is due to Microsoft’s continuing status as the world’s largest supplier of operating systems, despite the growing popularity of Apple PCs and Mac OS X, various flavours of Linux and even virtualisation software that lets you run XP or Vista software while living in a Mac OS X or Linux environment.

Sure, both OS X and Linux are gaining ground, but they’re still in the single digits – Microsoft still has the largest userbase by a long shot. This is also despite the success of open source software, such as Firefox, Open Office and a host of others.

While Microsoft is not invulnerable to external threat, it is still in an incredibly strong position. But despite all its strength, Microsoft is also not infallible, with Vista - and Vista SP1 - the most glaring examples. Please read onto page 2.

Windows Vista has been a mixed success. It started badly but recovered a little with the slow but steady release of Vista compatible drivers and software.

On one of today’s brand new and fast computers with at least 2GB or 3GB (Vista 32-bit) or 4GB of RAM (Vista 64-bit) and the latest peripherals, you can have a great Vista experience. The OS definitely offers some graphical wow, but after a while it’s not as spectacular as it once was.

In the end, eye candy is nice, but you still have to work in an operating system environment that is really just a polished up, transparent and snazzy XP interface, just as Windows 2000 and XP were polished up versions of the Windows 95 and 98 interfaces.

In the end you still have to do your work, and it’s great that it looks nicer, but it also has to be nice to use. And work with all my stuff, in a reliable manner, thanks to having a mature, well known, supremely compatible code base.

Currently, that mantle belongs to Windows XP. Windows Vista is a great operating system, but it introduced changes that were not only unnecessary and annoying, but even had a feature – UAC (Universal Access Control), or known in the Apple ads as ‘cancel or allow’ that was specifically designed to annoy users.

Windows XP is doing the job for many people, and especially many businesses, just fine, and not everyone wants to move to Vista just yet.

If the customer is always right and is happy with their current XP installation and superior compatibility, along with the upcoming SP3, why should they be forced to change many things and go with Vista just because they want to buy a new computer?

That’s why a petition has been set up to save Windows XP from the depths of Microsoft’s dungeons, out of the reach of everyday consumers. Please read onto page 3.

A petition has been set up by Infoworld to save XP from its June 30 expiry date, less than 75 days away, so that consumers and businesses can continue buying Windows XP for the foreseeable future.

Microsoft wants to preserve XP for ultra-low cost PCs, (ULCPCs) such as the ASUS Eee PC and competitors, until June 2010, while effectively forcing everyone else to use Vista, whether they want to or not. But petitioners want all versions of XP to be extended, and not just saved for ULCPC use.

Sometime in 2010 is when we should expect to see Windows 7 appear, the successor to Vista, although if managed badly this will set off another round of incompatibilities and driver issues.

Hopefully Vista will be greatly matured by that time and in stable shape, or the petitioners might well be asking Microsoft to extend XP availability beyond that time, too.

Microsoft: SP1 still isn’t able to download onto all Vista RTM machines, and plenty of people want the easy choice to continue with XP for the time being.

Please, listen to your customers, and allow XP to continue for at least another year yet. Vista’s not the answer for everyone just yet because of your own stuff-ups.

The world is filled with expectation that XP will get the reprieve it needs to give some consumers, at least, the best Windows experience. Why do you expect that consumers won’t let XP expire without a fight?

Don’t let this one explode in your face, Microsoft... or the consequences could well be exponential. Yes we know you’ve explained that the 2008 answer is Vista, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of XP, or at least, most certainly not yet, Microsoft. Not yet.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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