Nobody has hired skywriters yet, but Microsoft intends to pull Windows XP from retail channels this June. We're not using Vista right now, so I'm considering laying in some spare XP licenses. Should you stock up, too?
If your office is anything like mine, you've decided to stand pat with Windows XP, and hold off on a migration to Vista. Well, after June 30, unless you're placing an order of 25 machines or more, your OEM won't be able to pre-install XP for you anymore. Even if your purchase is large enough, your OEM still may not provide this service; it's entirely up to them.
Granted, Vista Business and Ultimate editions come with "downgrade" rights, so you can install XP Professional if your machine comes with either of those versions bundled aboard. It's up to the OEM's to decide whether or not they want to provide their customers with "downgrade" discs, though, so you'd better keep a copy of the XP Pro media around. Once June 30 hits, it's only a matter of time before copies of XP disappear from store shelves.
White box PC makers—what Microsoft calls System Builders—are those who prepare custom machines and preinstall them with Windows. Those entities have a bit longer to place orders for new XP Pro licenses; they get cut off on January 31, 2009.
These deadlines won't have much affect on those organizations and companies that have volume licenses from Microsoft. My university, for instance, participates in a volume license program called the Campus Agreement. This means that most departments, University faculty, and staff members can use Microsoft Windows on their computer at work without having to worry about maintaining specific individual licenses. The Campus Agreement supports the currently shipping version of Windows, as well as its previous version. So, regardless of what Windows version comes preinstalled on our machines from the OEM, I'll be able to continue imaging Windows XP on new machines until I'm completely confident we're ready to rely on Vista.
So I feel pretty good about my situation at work. I think we're pretty well covered and we'll be able to install XP for the foreseeable future. You situation probably isn't all that different if you have an Enterprise volume license, or you obtain your Windows seats by subscribing from a company with a Service Provider License Agreement.
What should you do if you don't have your own licensing contract with Microsoft, though?
I'm sure there are a lot of small businesses that don't license software, as such. When they need a new computer, they use whatever operating system version it comes with. Those organizations in all likelihood buy shrink-wrapped retail copies of the software they need. The Office Depots and Staples of the world won't be carrying boxed copies of XP after June 30. If you work for a small business and you haven't thought about whether you'll need a copy of Windows after the cut-off date, consider this your wake up call.
It is worth noting that it can be advantageous to obtain a volume license, even for smaller environments. They're available in as few as five seats, and Microsoft takes better care of its enterprise customers, as a rule.
I don't have plans on buying a new computer for my personal use before June, and the phase out makes me anxious. I like XP, and I want to keep using it. Even though my next home machine will probably be made by Apple, I'll want to have Windows available. I'll be running it in a virtual machine or dual-booting my new Mac using Boot Camp. I like building machines, but I don't qualify for—or want to pony up the cash for—System Builder rights. So, before June 30 rolls around, I'm going shopping to stock up on XP licenses. I figure I'll be picking up at least 3 copies: one for a virtual machine, one for a dual-boot Mac, and one "to grow on".
How do you feel about the impending XP phase out? Service Pack 3 is still in the works at Redmond, and support for XP will be available through April 2014, so I think it's still something we can support in good conscience. It may not be around forever, but maybe if we're lucky, we might even be able to get by until Windows 7 is a viable option.
If you want Microsoft to keep XP around, InfoWorld has started an online petition that you can sign.