Windows XP users shun forced upgrade to Vista

While Canadian firms herald extended Windows XP support, when it comes to upgrading to Vista, they still have no plans to change.

Earlier this week, Microsoft Corp. senior vice-president Bill Veghte issued a letter to Windows customers addressing top concerns over his company’s plan to stop selling the operating system. While Microsoft isn’t budging on its plans to halt retail sales of XP on June 30, the company did share its plans for XP, progress on Vista and a potential Windows 7 release date.

Key points include extending XP support until 2014, downgrade rights for Vista Business and Vista Ultimate users and a predictable Windows release schedule roughly every three years, starting with Windows 7 in 2010.

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Back in April, ComputerWorld Canada organized an online petition called SaveXP for readers distraught over the June 30 deadline. Several of those who signed up didn’t sound like the letter has greatly changed their perspective.

“My first reaction to this was, ‘It’s great. They’re going to support the operating system until 2014,’” said Tavinder Channa, manager of product development at Hammerhead Nautical Systems. “But when they say that customers have the option to downgrade, I wonder how transparent of an approach that’s going to be.”

Another user sees nothing new in Veghte’s letter.

“I think it’s just a rehash of what Microsoft’s said in the past,” said Ted Ristau, senior systems analyst at Crestline Coach Ltd. “My concern now is that they’ve stopped supplying to certain OEMs. There may be less push for driver development under XP, which means that XP-based will be an option, but will die a slow death.”

While the letter answered some questions, Dave Martin, systems analyst at Nylene, said he feels Microsoft left one out. “They didn’t actually answer the question WHY they aren’t letting people buy it anymore…although it’s very obvious. But for people that are not in the business, they would be wondering, ‘Why are you preventing me from buying a piece of software that shouldn’t give me any trouble? If you’re going to provide support up to 2014, why can’t I just buy the software anyway?’”

Microsoft suggests enterprise customers re-consider Vista’s benefits of increased productivity and security, but Ristau said he considers Vista a “dead product” for the enterprise. “The operating system doesn’t technically do anything for the end user. It’s a host,” he said. “It’s what you do with the applications that are hosted on that system, and of course, the resources you can access through the system…As long as my users can access my remote applications…system resources, server resources, remote clients and such, from that point of view, I don’t care if it’s Windows Vista, XP or 95.”

As for security, “If the enterprise level is not secure from outside threats by this time, they need to fire their IT staff and hire someone else,” said Ristau. “As long as you have your network set up correctly, you should be able to prevent most internal threats. I don’t see where Vista’s going to provide any more security.”

Predictable release schedules received a favourable note. “Predictability adds a lot in terms of long term planning,” said Channa. To ease future transitions, however, Channa suggested Microsoft should also take into consideration hardware refresh cycles. “People had already bought their new machines and had their hardware upgraded and then Microsoft comes out and says, ‘Oh, here’s Vista.’ Well, if you had given that to me maybe before, I would have been able to incorporate it better into the planning.”

When asked whether the letter had any affect on their action plans, the petitioners interviewed provided a unanimous “no.” Their firms had no plans to roll out Vista before and those intentions remain unchanged. If anything, Microsoft’s intention to release Windows 7 in less than two years is providing companies even more reason to wait.

Prolonging XP support to 2014 may offer a sigh of relief, but another headache may lie around the corner. As John Meeuwse, CIO of West Nipissing General Hospital points out, “They don’t say it will be easy to move from XP to 7, only from Vista to 7. We may end up in the same boat as we are now.”

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