MS to include XP until 2010 on low-cost PCs

After facing pressure from computer manufacturers, Microsoftannounced it will continue selling licenses for Windows XP for low-costlaptops until 2010. It plans to stop selling XP for most other machinesthis month.

James Niccolai of IDG News Service filed this report

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Microsoft Corp. has extended the life of Windows XPso that PC manufacturers can include the operating system on low-costdesktop PCs, the software maker announced at the Computex trade show.

Microsoft has been under pressure from computer makers to provide aversion of its OS for an emerging class of very low-cost laptops anddesktops. Its new Windows Vista OS is widely seen as tooresource-hungry for those machines.

In April Microsoft extended its deadline for selling Windows XPlicenses for low-cost laptops like the Asus Eee PC. It had originallyplanned to stop selling most XP licenses on June 30.

At Computex on Tuesday it said it has now also extended the deadlinefor low-cost desktops. PC makers can now include Windows XP in thosesystems until 2010, the same as the deadline for low-cost laptops, saidRob Young, a senior director with Microsoft’s OEM group.

In a statement, Microsoft said the extension applies to “nettops,” aterm coined by Intel to refer to low-cost desktops that have limitedsystem configurations and are intended for simple tasks like surfingthe Internet and sending email. Examples include the upcoming Asus EeeBox, which is on show here at Computex.

It was unclear what limitations Microsoft may put on PC makers toprevent them from installing Windows XP on more capable machines. Youngsaid Microsoft and PC vendors are in general agreement over whatconstitutes a nettop and suggested that Microsoft won’t specify thehardware configurations that vendors can use with XP.

Microsoft said it was responding to the growing popularity ofnettops and netbooks, and to demands from PC makers to provide asuitable OS for those machines.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback from customers and partners, andthey’re very interested in seeing these devices with Windows on them,”said Steve Guggenheimer, the head of Microsoft’s OEM business, during aspeech at Computex.

Microsoft’s statement was ambiguous, saying only that it wouldextend the deadline for “the Windows offering” to include nettops.Young confirmed that the extension applies to Windows XP.

“We have seen much demand for Windows on the Eee PC,” Jerry Shen,CEO of Asustek Computer, said in the statement. “It is great thatMicrosoft is addressing this customer demand and providing a Windowssolution on these devices, which will provide a familiar computingexperience.”

Intel has said nettops and netbooks are intended as a second PC forthe home or for people in developing countries who can’t afford afull-featured PC. However, Guggenheimer acknowledged Tuesday that noone knows yet where the devices will prove popular.

“We’ve had standalone Internet devices come out before, not too manyof them have been successful, but now we are getting towards the rightprice points,” he said. “How they’ll land and who will buy them wedon’t really know yet, but we’ll wait and see.”

Netbooks and nettops are intended to be powerful enough to consumecontent, such as streaming video, but not powerful enough for contentcreation tasks like video editing. Many will use Intel’s new Atom chipsor Via’s low-power C7 processor.

The Eee Box is due to go on sale in July for about $300 and will beoffered with Windows XP or Linux. It will come with a maximum harddrive capacity of 250G bytes and use 802.11n Wi-Fi for Internet access. 

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