RealTime IT News

Would You Like 'XP' With That PC?

Microsoft this week extended by five months the length of time that PC manufacturers and retailers can sell new systems with Windows XP instead of Vista installed.

But analysts say that doesn't mean Vista sales are weak.

Late Thursday, the company announced that it has extended the sales availability of XP Service Pack 2 from Jan. 30, 2008, to June 30, 2008. Microsoft officials admitted that there is still stronger than expected demand for XP, despite their claims that Vista is the company's best selling version of Windows ever.

"We were a little ambitious to think that we would need to make Windows XP available for only a year after the release of Windows Vista," Mike Nash, corporate vice president for Windows product management, said in a statement. With the change, the total amount of time after Vista shipped to consumers that users will still be able to buy systems with XP installed will now total 17 months.

That is still shorter than the average time that Microsoft has allowed in the past for the previous version of Windows to remain on sale after the shipment of a new version – approximately two years was the average previously, Nash added.

Besides requests from original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to allow them to continue selling XP for those customers who still prefer it over Vista, there are also issues with computers sold in emerging markets not meeting the newer system's hardware requirements, the company said.

While acknowledging continued demand for XP in some markets, however, Microsoft officials insist that Vista is a hit. By mid-summer, officials announced they had sold 60 million licenses through OEM and retail channels, and an additional 42 million via volume license agreements. Vista first shipped to corporate customers in November 2006, and to consumers on January 30, 2007.

"Microsoft didn't set the cutoff date right in the first place," Michael Silver, research vice president at analyst firm Gartner, told InternetNews.com. It wouldn't surprise him if Microsoft has to extend that out to two years or longer, but he doesn't read that as a collapse in Vista demand.

"At this point, we'd expect more than half of the [new] PCs shipped worldwide are shipped with Vista anyway," Silver added.

One market where Vista has not been selling well is as shrink-wrapped, off-the-shelf packages.

Researcher NPD says that sales of shrink-wrapped Vista packages were 59.7 percent lower during its first seven months on the market than XP sales during the comparable time period.

However, that's understandable, NPD's director of software analysis, Chris Swenson, told InternetNews.com. Vista has more stringent hardware requirements than XP, so users are confronted with having to upgrade their PCs in order to run the newer system, and that's a big roadblock.

"At that point, I might as well just buy a new PC," Swenson said. And what do new PCs come with? Windows Vista.