IT analysts don

IT analysts don’t hold much hope for XP reprieve

Gregg Keizer of Computerworld U.S. offers a bleak report:

Microsoft Corp. may be set to extend Windows XP’s availability forlow-cost laptops and a new generation of handheld devices, but it won’tgive the aged operating system a general reprieve from its June 30retail and reseller cutoff, analysts said yesterday.

“Not likely,” said Directions on Microsoft analyst Michael Cherry, citing Microsoft’s need to push Windows Vista.

“XP has had one reprieve already,” said Michael Gartenberg, ananalyst at JupiterResearch LLC. “And there are ways they can extend thelife of the technology without extending the life of the XP brand.”

Last September, Microsoft gave Windows XP a five-month stay, sayingit would continue selling the operating system to large computer makersand at retail through the end of June, rather than call it quits Jan.31, 2008, which had been its original plan.

Yesterday, reports surfaced that said Microsoft would also relax theJune 30 deadline for low-cost laptops, such as the Asus Eee and thelow-priced pocket devices that plan to use Intel’s Atom processors.Those laptops and devices will lack the horsepower to run Windows Vista.

“There’s clearly a need for something like XP in the mobile orultramobile market, where it shines relative to Vista,” Gartenberg said.

Cherry agreed that Vista has no place on low-powered hardware, butsaid Microsoft was in a tough spot. If Vista’s specifications precludeits use on laptops in the $200 to $300 range, as they certainly do, andMicrosoft doesn’t want to cede the turf to Linux, its only choice isXP. Yet Cherry said Microsoft would put XP to bed if it could.

“Regardless of what happens, at the end of the day we’ve got XP,Vista — all five versions of it — and then Windows 7 coming along,”Cherry said. “How long can they keep maintaining three big globs ofcode?”

But if people are expecting Microsoft to lengthen the life span ofWindows XP for all users, they’re dreaming, Cherry continued. “I thinkit’s likely that Microsoft will extend the deadline, but I don’t thinkeveryone will like what it is. They won’t keep it alive for all.”

Cherry again cited the difficulty of maintaining the code base forXP at the same time it makes the case for Vista and develops Windows 7.He also dismissed the fact that last September, Microsoft promised tomake Windows XP Starter Edition available in emerging markets —generally defined as countries such as China, India, Russia and thelike — through June 2010. “There’s a difference between maintainingsomething like XP Starter and XP for anyone who wants it,” Cherryargued.

Interest in Windows XP’s longevity has been driven by severalfactors, including the approaching June 30 deadline and the imminentrelease of another service pack, but the biggest reason users seem towant XP to live is a general reluctance to upgrade to Windows Vista.

Earlier this week, Forrester Research Inc. released results ofmonthly surveys during 2007 that polled more than 50,000 enterprisecomputer users. According to the surveys, Windows XP usage remainedconstant throughout the year at slightly over 89% of all Windows usersin businesses. Windows Vista, meanwhile, grew from nearly nothing tojust over 6%, but it appeared to get its gains at the expense ofWindows 2000, not the dominant Windows XP.

A Forrester researcher said the data hinted that companies mighthang onto Windows XP until the next iteration, Windows 7, is availablein late 2009 or early 2010, skipping Vista altogether.

Gartenberg acknowledged the pressure to push out XP’s drop-dead datecame from Vista’s troubles. “In the past, you could argue that thelatest and greatest from Microsoft was better. But for many people andbusinesses, that just doesn’t fly this time.

“It boils down to the simple question,” he continued. “If Microsoftcan’t convince their customers to move to Vista, will they will be ableto kill XP?”

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