Windows XP Gets Another Channel Reprieve

System builders and channel distributors will be able to supply XP-based hardware to customers until May 30 if they order the operating system by Jan. 31.

The Windows XP operating system has received another channel reprieve.

Microsoft is granting system builders and channel distributors a break on Windows XP: The system builders will be able to keep supplying XP-based hardware to customers until May 30, 2009 as long as the distributor from which they obtain the operating system orders it by Jan. 31.

The policy change basically means the channel system builders and distributors won't have to pay in advance for the XP systems that they expect to sell to customers. That is good news for channel partners who still are building their own XP-based hardware systems for customers who prefer to shun Vista.

This marks the third time since Vista's release in January 2007, that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has pushed out XP's availability by granting system builders a "flexible" delivery date beyond the official phase-out deadline of January 31.

The end of January remains the cut-off date for channel partners and PC vendors to purchase licenses, but they can take delivery of those licenses through May 30, 2009. So customers may purchase Windows XP machines right up through June.

That would coincide with the rumored release date of Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista. While Microsoft has publicly said Windows 7 will ship in early 2010, other indicators have pointed to Windows 7 shipping in early June of 2009.

For its part, Microsoft insists this is not an extension. "Microsoft is making accommodation through a flexible inventory program that will allow distributors to place their final orders by January 31, 2009; and take delivery against those orders through May 30, 2009. This is not an extension of sales," the company said in a statement .

Windows XP seems to die and come back more often than rumors about Steve Jobs. Microsoft has changed the final release date for XP no less than four times since Vista shipped. All told, Windows XP will have been on the market 90 months by the time Microsoft halts shipments in May. Its predecessors have averaged around 60 months.

The problem isn't that customers love creaky old Windows XP, introduced in 2001. It's just that Windows Vista has been so poorly received. Despite numerous updates and a service pack, not to mention the Project Mojave campaign to build awareness and use of Vista, it's not all that welcome. A recent survey found 46 percent of IT shops will simply tough it out and wait for Windows 7.

Which is a shame, said analyst Mike Cherry of Directions on Microsoft, who thinks Vista today is not the one that shipped two years ago. "I don't think people understand how good Vista SP1 is," he said. "A lot of problems went away with Vista SP1, as long as you pay attention to their hardware limits."

However, whether Vista deserves its reputation or not, the fact is, people are really negative toward it and Microsoft can't seem to change it, he noted. "I don't think Microsoft wants to create a situation where they force people to take something they don't want. I'm not sure a company can ever do that," he said.

(This article was adapted from and edited by Al Senia.)



TAGS: Windows,Microsoft,Vista,distributors,system builders

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