Windows XP Extensions Reflect Vista's Woes

Microsoft needs to keep its older operating system on the market in order to appease business customers.
Microsoft in the past week announced yet another life extension for its supposedly retired Windows XP operating system, a sign that, despite almost two years on the market, Windows Vista is a no-go for most businesses.

Only 10% of 700 business executives recently surveyed by the Information Technology Industry Council and Sunbelt Software said their companies are using Windows Vista in the enterprise.

The numbers are consistent with other industry data and anecdotal observations.

A survey released in October by the United Kingdom's Corporate IT Forum showed that only 4% of businesses in that country are using Windows Vista on workplace systems, while 35% said they were "not yet interested" in Vista. Fifty-eight percent said they were still using Windows XP, now 7 years old.

Meanwhile, IT officials for the state of Maine say their organization plans to skip Vista for state workers and will jump directly from XP to Windows 7, which Microsoft has said it plans to release in 2010.

Why such resistance to Vista? IT managers have complained about the operating system's resource requirements -- it takes considerably more PC horsepower and memory to run than XP -- and its lack of compatibility with older software. In particular, new security features built into Vista's kernel tend to break applications built for previous versions of Windows.

As a result, Microsoft is under considerable pressure from business customers to maintain XP's availability.

On Friday, the company said it's extending the deadline for Windows XP sales to custom PC builders.

Under the plan, system builders will be allowed to take delivery of XP licenses and media through May 30. Previously, Microsoft had announced a Jan. 31 XP cutoff date for system builders, which are typically smaller, build-to-order vendors. The news was first reported by sister site ChannelWeb.

It's the latest in a string of reprieves for XP. Microsoft also originally planned to stop distributing Windows XP media to large OEMs, like Dell and Hewlett-Packard, on Jan. 31. But the company announced in October that it would move that deadline to July 31.

If Microsoft is on schedule with Windows 7, that would leave a gap of about just six months between the end of the XP program in most markets and Windows 7's general availability in early 2010. It's a sign of Microsoft's concession that Vista has flopped in the key corporate marketplace.