PC maker Dell is giving Windows XP fans a few more days in which to order systems with the older Microsoft operating system preinstalled.
Microsoft will no longer make Windows XP available to large system builders after June 30, and Dell had previously said that it would only accept orders for XP-based machines through June 18. Now, however, the computer maker says customers have until June 26 to place orders for XP systems.
An announcement posted on Dell's Web site said the Windows XP availability program was "extended by popular demand."
After the cutoff date, Dell customers will still be able to obtain Windows XP on certain gaming and business systems. Technically, however, those systems will be Windows Vista PCs that have been "pre-downgraded" by Dell to XP through a loophole in Microsoft's licensing terms.
The fact that PC makers are continuing to push Windows XP almost 18 months after Vista's debut reflects widespread disappointment with the newer OS. Business and home computer users have complained about Vista's cost, resource requirements, and lack of compatibility with older software.
Even Microsoft is giving Windows XP a reprieve -- albeit for a limited segment of the PC market.
The company recently said that it would allow computer makers to continue to sell XP on low-cost "nettop" PCs for an extended period past the official June 30 expiration. Microsoft said it would allow system vendors to preload the Home edition of Windows XP on nettops through June 2010, or about one year after Windows 7 becomes generally available.
Microsoft defines nettops as ultra-low-cost PCs that are "optimized for Internet-based activities such as e-mail, Web browsing, and instant messaging."
An example of a nettop is the Asus Eee PC, which runs Windows XP or Linux and sells for less than $400. Such low-spec machines would be incapable of running Vista.
The move mirrors the software maker's decision earlier this year to make Windows XP available to manufacturers of low-cost laptops beyond XP's June 30 retirement.
To experience all of Vista's features, PC users need a computer with at least a 1-GHz processor, 1 GB of memory, and a 40-GB hard drive. By contrast, Windows XP Professional requires only a 300-MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM, and a 1.5-Gbyte disk.
Without continued access to XP, vendors like Asus would be forced to offer only Linux on their systems. It's a situation Microsoft is trying to avoid as sales of low-cost PCs rise in emerging markets like India and China.
Microsoft has said it expects XP sales to account for as little as 15% of its operating system revenue in its current fiscal year, which runs through the end of the month.