Windows users unite! SaveXP comes to Canada

Microsoft Corp. is touting Windows Vista as a more secure operating system with a better user interface that its predecessor, XP, but it’s evident close to 90,000 users would prefer not to upgrade. Now it’s Canada’s turn to weigh in.

InfoWorld Media Group of San Francisco recently launched an online petition demanding Microsoft keep selling XP indefinitely. By Tuesday morning, 89,503 users signed the petition.

ComputerWorld Canada has launched a campaign of its own, which will also include regular updates on XP support, tips and tricks and industry commentary. It will be available at Both InfoWorld and ComputerWorld Canada are affiliated with International Data Group (IDG). Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft plans to stop selling retail versions of XP June 30, and after that, anyone wanting XP would have to get it through their hardware manufacturer – if they’re selling it.

Elliot Katz, senior product manager for Windows client at Microsoft Canada Co., said in an e-mail to ComputerWorld Canada: “Windows XP that is already in the channel will stay in the channel.”

System builders, who sell primarily to small and mid-sized firms, will still be able to sell XP until January of 2009, Katz added.

Microsoft is currently encouraging users to upgrade to Vista, which the company says makes it easier for users to find files and folders and to view all applications they have open at any given time.

Microsoft has said Vista has more advanced backup and security features, such as a spyware remover and a new firewall designed to prevent infected PCs from spreading malware.

Katz said Vista has had fewer security problems that required a patch than XP did, and Microsoft is receiving 21 per cent fewer support calls with Vista than it did with XP.

Nevertheless, the company’s plan to stop selling XP has not gone over well with some users who have signed InfoWorld’s petition.

One user, who identified himself by the alias “Marco Polo,” described himself as “one of those old timers who think an actual OS improvement is one that runs faster, more securely, more efficiently, interfaces with hardware better, and makes applications perform much better as a result.” He went on to call Vista “a huge drooling mastiff sucking up the hardware resources of what should be a banging good machine.”

Another user, who identified himself as “Michael,” said he was unable to install the Mozilla Firefox Web browser on Vista on his Dell laptop and had to put up with “Mother-may-I dialogs.”

Katz said Microsoft is aware of InfoWorld’s petition and there are “no current plans” to extend the deadline to buy XP.

Analysts agree some IT managers will be reluctant to upgrade to Vista.

“People generally don’t like to be told they have to change and by Microsoft releasing the new operating system there’s a lot of speculation that users have to change towards the new product,” said Michelle Warren, senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group of London, Ont.

“I think that’s the root cause of a lot of the petitions, that they are out asking Microsoft to hold off.”

Warren added Info-Tech is advising users to consider upgrading to Vista once the first package of bug fixes, dubbed Service Pack 1 (SP1), is available.

Service Pack 1 to Vista was released to manufacturing last week, and Microsoft says it will be available for download in mid-March.

Service Pack 1 was designed to solve problems with the installation of some device drivers and to let users move and copy files more quickly. Users who continue to use XP run the risk of having an archaic operating system, warns Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the San Jose, Calif.-based Enderle Group.

“The reality is, Windows XP has run out of steam,” he said. “The code base is simply too old and the level of change that’s occurred in terms of threats and hardware is just too great, and the product just doesn’t have the breadth to continue on. That’s why Microsoft is pulling the plug and to be clear, the (original equipment manufacturers) do not want Windows XP to be continued” so they can get users to buy new hardware.

One Canadian organization is waiting until next year to upgrade. The Canadian Cancer society’s Ontario division, which has 40 branch offices, is planning to do a small test pilot this year of Vista.

The Ontario division’s IT director, Gerry Holmes, said he plans to test the new operating systems and prepare his staff for a full-scale rollout next year. The halt to sales of XP this year will not force him to upgrade any faster.

“The only thing that would drive us to do a forced upgrade is when the applications, the stuff that you’re buying off the shelf, no longer runs or has decreased functionality,” Holmes said. “We would tend to be driven by the other applications rather than driven by Microsoft itself.”

Some IT managers may prefer other operating systems, such as Linux, Warren said.

“Vista has a totally different look and feel to XP,” she said. “Because it’s such a different operating system there’s an impetus right there to look at other options.”

Despite its touted security advantages, Info-Tech is advising Vista users not to rely solely on Windows Firewall for their security.

“Vista has some really advanced security features over XP, definitely,” Warren said. “One of the main selling features is it offers IT departments more control, removes it from the users and puts more control into the hands of the IT managers, so that enables more secure environment for inbound and outbound traffic.”

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