XP lives on, Vista limps on

Microsoft has announced that it is to give its Windows XP operating system yet another lease of life, by extending sales of licences for the OS

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By  Mark Sutton Published  December 23, 2008

Microsoft has announced that it is to give its Windows XP operating system yet another lease of life, by extending sales of licences for the OS. Microsoft was originally due to stop selling licences by the end of January, but now says that it will take orders to provide licences up until May 30th 2009.

Even after that point some vendors will continue to sell machines with Vista installed, but 'factory downgraded' to XP, and for cheap portables and emerging markets, XP is set to carry on until June 2010.

With the next version of Windows, Windows 7, due to arrive some time in late 2009, Vista's status as the version of Windows that time forgot seems secured.

But do the figures back up that status?

In our latest itp.net spot poll, Windows XP definitely still takes the lion's share of the market, with 62% of respondents saying they are still using it at work. That looks like a long tail of XP users, but then any operating system tends to have a longer life in business than in commercial use - 2.5% of respondents reported they were using a Windows OS other than Vista or XP.

In all, Vista took a pretty respectable share of 23%, (Mac OS X was on 6% and Linux on 3.4%, no takers for Sun Solaris), but the question is whether it till ever take more.

After two years of availability, Microsoft might have hoped for a bigger share for Vista, but the OS had its share of well known problems at launch, namely device compatibility and intensive, expensive hardware requirements, which didn't help with uptake. While the compatibility problems have been dealt with, Vista still has bad word of mouth around it, and I can't see many companies looking to hardware and OS upgrades in the current climate.

On top of its own issues, and Redmond has been trying to improve Vista's reputation, Vista isn't an easy sell when you still have vendors selling 'downgraded' systems - its just a bad message to have your partners putting out to customers.

Assuming that Windows 7 turns up something like on time - which would be a pretty big surprise - I think its likely that many companies will simply pass on Vista and go straight to 7.

Companies won't all rush out and buy Windows 7 at launch, but with the word being spread that it will be a steady improvement on Vista, in the same way that XP built on the stable legacy of NT, rather than another big bang, they are a lot more likely to look favorably on it. Or perhaps make the switch to Linux (but Mac's too expensive for most businesses to consider).

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