Windows XP lives on! Sort of

Microsoft's popular XP operating system has gotten another reprieve. While sales of XP Pro will end on June 30, 2008, XP Home will continue to be available to manufacturers of "Ultra low-cost" PCs or ULCPC. XP Home will be available for that platform until at least June 2010 or one year after the launch of the next Windows platform

Microsoft's popular XP operating system has seen so many death sentences that it may well be referred to as "zombie-ware". Destined to reach "end of life" on June 30, 2008, the software giant is having a (limited) change of heart.

Microsoft has announced that it will continue to make XP Home available for a category of computers referred to as "ultra low cost" (ULCPC), a designation that refers to the Asus Eee and the Intel Classmate PCs. These platforms are capable of running XP or Linux but aren't robust enough to take advantage of Vista features. XP Home will be available to manufacturers of ULCPCs through June 2010 or one year after the launch of Windows 7, which ever comes later.

So what is driving the reprieve? From the Seattle Times:

Bob O'Donnell, who tracks PC hardware trends for analyst firm IDC, said nearly all of the 430,000 units sold in 2007 were loaded with the open-source Linux operating system.

That's troubling to Microsoft, which expects many ULPCs to be sold in emerging markets. Those markets represent the best opportunities for growth as mature markets in the U.S. and Western Europe max out.

Microsoft previously said an even more stripped-down version of XP, called Starter Edition, will be available in emerging markets until June 30, 2010. But the ULPCs with XP Home can be sold anywhere in the world.

"These are machines that represent net PC growth overall," said Michael Dix, general manager of Windows Client product management. "Primarily, in emerging markets, a lot of first-time PC buyers find these attractive because it's an inexpensive way to get a fully functioning PC."

But it isn't just emerging markets that want XP. In a recent survey by InfoWorld, there was a strong indication that people didn't see a need to upgrade their home computers to Vista and that business still faced multiple challenges in porting their business critical applications to Vista. In short, the XP market is still alive and vibrant.

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

"It's unfortunate that they've let their blindness about Vista lead them to ignore what their customers are telling them," said Galen Gruman, an executive editor at InfoWorld in San Francisco. The online technology news and review publication has launched a "Save Windows XP" initiative, including an online petition that garnered more than 106,000 signatures at last count.

Gruman said the unusual campaign arose from discussions with corporate technology officers and others. "Everything we were hearing said it's wrong to stop XP on June 30. ... There was something real there, and we just decided that someone had to say something about it."

According to a recent report released by Forrester, "Adoption of Vista among Windows users increased by a little more than five percentage points during 2007 to end at 6.3 percent. But, much to Microsoft's dismay, even this conservative growth cannot be attributed to upgrades from XP, which remained fixed at 90 percent throughout 2007.

The final irony is this. Assuming that only cheap, basic laptops will be available with XP starting July 1, XP fans will be in a very odd position. Purchase the operating system they think is superior by paying significantly less for the hardware.

The question remains if XP will get yet another reprieve in the market. Some say yes, others, no. According to Microsoft's Michael Dix, "We think it is the right time for the mass Markey to make the switch over to Vista." It would seem, Mr. Dix, that perhaps the mass market may not share that thinking.

Share your thoughts. Would you buy an ULCPC just to have XP? Do you think that Microsoft will extend XP's life again? Or is it time to make a move away from Windows software altogether?

More Information:

Microsoft gives Windows XP a limited reprieve (Information Week)

Microsoft extends XP Home 2 years-for budget laptops only (Ars Technica)