Much has been made about Windows XP fading into the sunset at the same time as co-founder Bill Gates leaves his full time position at the software giant. Microsoft has already extended the life of the aging operating system once, and will continue to offer it for ultra-mobile PCs.
However, if you really must have XP, there is a way. First, you have to buy a new PC. In this example, from Dell. Second, you have to buy it with either Vista Business or Vista Ultimate Edition, the two priciest versions of Vista.
At that point, for between $20 and $50, depending on the computer, you can order Windows XP Pro, which is installed on your computer. Dell will then deliver the PC with the XP installation and driver CDs as well as the installation DVD for Vista.
The deal is only available through Dell.com, not at retail or through its growing number of resellers. Dell plans to offer this option through January 2009, according to Ann Camden, a spokesperson for the company.
Details can be found on Dell’s Small Business blog, along with instructions on how to order your PC with the older operating system. The feature, amusingly enough, is called “Genuine Windows Vista Business Bonus” or “Genuine Windows Vista Ultimate Bonus.”
This may well be the first time an older operating system is being sold as a bonus package. (Microsoft did not return a request for comment by press time).
Despite some reports in other outlets, Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) said this isn’t a loophole, it’s an option that has been available for prior operating system releases as well, such as the Windows 2000 to Windows XP migration that took place in the beginning of the decade.
“It’s something Microsoft offers with the full understanding that there are customer segments that need extra time for transition, like corporate customers with thousands of PCs in multiple departments, or small business owners,” Camden told InternetNews.com.
A bonus for gamers?
In addition to the enterprise and SMB markets, the offer also applies to gamers, who have invested a lot of money in games, components and peripherals that may not work on Vista or are only optimized for XP, she added. Consumer customers pay $20 for the XP “Bonus downgrade” while business customers spend between $20 and $50.
Camden said the majority of systems Dell sells have Vista installed, and thinks the operating system is getting a bum rap. “We have to be aware that Vista has been out for more than a year now and Microsoft has worked very hard to deal with any incompatibilities that were around or apparent when Vista first launched,” she said.
Gartner analyst Michael Silver agreed that Vista is really getting an unfair knock. “I think people are overreacting,” he said. “The press on Windows Vista is a lot worse than the product itself, especially when you buy it on a new PC.”
Part of the problem is that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) hasn’t really defended itself against the endless needling from Apple’s kitschy “I’m a PC” ads. “Some of the stuff Apple talks about in those ads, they have similar issues themselves,” said Silver. “Microsoft really does at some point need to respond.”
As for the Dell offering, Silver said Dell is not just responding to Vista’s reputation, but also addressing legitimate needs.
“They are actually helping consumers or small businesses that can’t get to Vista, maybe they don’t want it or have apps that won’t run or a device with no drivers,” he said.
“Downgrade rights are something enterprises take advantage of all the time because they have a fair amount of testing to do, but consumers and small businesses never had that option,” he added.