Is Windows XP too good for Microsoft's own good?

Is Windows XP too good for Microsoft's own good?

Summary: Did Microsoft make XP Service Pack (SP) 2 too good for its own good? Or is Vista just an off release that Microsoft should hurry up and replace -- and definitely sooner than 2010, when it is slated to roll out Windows 7?


On September 27, Microsoft has extended the cut-off as to when PC makers will be allowed to continue to sell Windows XP with new machines.

Is Windows XP too good for Microsoft’s own good?Until now, January 30, 2008, was the Microsoft-imposed deadline for system vendors to cease offering Windows XP on all new OEM machines. (System builders, a k a white-box vendors, had a longer deadline: January 30, 2009.) But as a result of feedback from customers and partners, Microsoft has extended the OEM and retailer cut-off date for XP to June 30, 2008. That gives consumers five more months to buy XP with new Windows PCs before being required to provide Vista.

The system-builder cut-off date for XP stays at 2009. Vendors selling XP Starter Edition on "ultra-low-cost" machines get a longer reprieve and can sell XP through 2010. And, in spite of the later cutover date for OEMs, nothing changes, in terms of how long Microsoft will support Windows Vista: Microsoft will provide mainstream support through 2012 and extended support through 2017.

Microsoft began paving the way for a longer Vista ramp-up in July, when it began simplifying the process by which its top-tier PC partners could downgrade Vista users to XP.

Microsoft officials insist Vista is selling well and the push back of the cutover deadline shouldn't be interpreted as Microsoft lessening its commitment to Vista. The company will continue to spend its Windows marketing and support dollars on Vista, not XP.

"The one-year XP transition just turned out to be a little too ambitious," acknowledged Kevin Kutz, a director in the Windows client unit. Traditionally, Microsoft has given OEMs two years to transition to a new operating system release, Kutz said.

Some industry watchers see the move as evidence of Microsoft is being responsive to customers and partners. Others see it as Microsoft going with the lesser of two evils by giving users not ready to move to Vista a choice other than defecting to Mac OSX or Linux. Even though Microsoft is likely making a few less dollars per copy of XP sold to OEMs than it makes on a copy of Vista, a Windows sale is still a Windows sale.

For my part, I can't help but wonder if Vista finally and irrevocably pushed Windows into the same category as Microsoft Office, meaning that the cost and potential risks of upgrading have come to outweigh the benefit of new features in the eyes of many customers.

What's your take? Did Microsoft make XP Service Pack (SP) 2 too good for its own good? Or is Vista just an off release that Microsoft should hurry up and replace -- and definitely sooner than 2010, when it is slated to roll out Windows 7?

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Or, It ain't broke so don't fix it.

    Maybe people are too tired of working out the kinks for Microsoft.
    • I really don't see the problem.

      Considering all the noise in the numerous forums over the monumental security issues in Windows XP, I don't see how anyone could stay on that platform. While Vista is not anywhere near perfect, I still don't see why half of the people in here complain. If it boots up and gets the job done, then the OS has done its job. Considering that even with IE 7, XP still constantly gets patch after patch after patch! If XP was a house, it would be in need of a remodel.

      My biggest complaint with Vista is the inferior memory management, lack of speed improvement over XP, and poor gaming on top tier games. To me, XP and Vista run about the same speed, except for games. The memory problems are obvious when you are trying to do multiple tasks. Even with a dual core, the only improvement I've seen are in applications such as anti-virus scans or anti-spyware sweeps. Even the internet upload/download is pretty much the same.

      Security wise its a major improvement over XP, moderate improvement in overall performance, good improvements in applications, and games are still being worked out. Its really no better than when XP launched but better in terms of the daily tasks done by most home consumers. Considering that OS-X is notorious for each version fixing flaws in the last version, Apple is no different than Microsoft when having its customers beta tests their operating systems.

      The reason why Vista wins is because its not XP. The platform is stable and secure at this time. It boots, gets the job done, but its a work in progress. The last performance updates did their job and Vista is making slow steps foward. Considering that both Mac OS-X and Linux both are now tackling the many security flaws in their respective operating systems, I would argue that its a great reason to move towards Vista.

      Linux will not be a viable desktop OS for a number of reasons. First, too many competing versions of the same OS. There's RedHat, Ubuntu, openSUSE, Linspire, Darwin, and many other versions out there. Its owned by so many different companies that none of them can honestly market a version on any commercial media without risk of lawsuit. With almost no advertisement money or push, Linux is dead on arrival. The reason why Microsoft and Apple are 1 and 2 is easy: MARKETING! Those commericials and print media advertisement gets people's attention.

      The open source nature of Linux is its very own worst enemy. Almost anyone can find weaknesses in the source code and exploit it. No matter how you lockdown a system, a Linux knowledgable person could compromise it. Since major countries like the U.S., UK, France, Germany, China and Russia employ crackers, you know they are tearing Linux code inside and out. Thats why the U.S. Department of Defense doesn't use it. Many argue that its only a few months advantage before a new distro comes out. With someone well versed in computer language, those few months do not mean squat. Kids out there are learning computer languages and technology even faster than the previous generation.

      Finally, a lack of real 3rd party software makers has held Linux with its 2.8 percent of the world's desktop market. Why would anyone put their proprietary applications on an open source OS? Not only does it compromise the profit but it also weakens whatever position they have in the free market. Since all Linux based products requires full disclosure of code, I don't think business will want to do that. All businesses are in it for one thing profit. Linux cost more to setup and maintain versus a Microsoft or Apple environment. Since many versions of Linux are free, there is no incentive to market one for money. Even if you did add support, I don't think anyone out there pays for a Linux OS. It is ultimately its own worse enemy and why its just a niche player like Apple.
      Solid Jedi Knight
      • Open your eyes... you might see better

        here are very few of the reasons that people complain.
        Vista does indeed boot and get the job done (eventually). It has a little more eye candy - at the expense of having to wait a few extra minutes (which given the speed of the current hardware is unforgivable).

        When people were considering the switch from 2000 to XP, the decision was made a little simpler - performance with XP was just a little better than with 2K on the same hardware.

        I'm assuming that your copy of Vista didn't come with a new internet connection which is probably why you didn't notice any performance difference on the upload and download speeds.

        Lets get to the security stuff you talked about. Vista is a new OS, so there are fewer chances of it having been tested (indeed by the customers) for flaws - XP has reached a relatively stable point delivered through service packs and intermittent security updates. The (main) reason that Linux is a little safer is that the code is open to everyone. People with harmful intent have the code as well as those with good intent. When someone notices a flaw, it can be fixed and sent for inclusion.

        Linux is not dead on arrival. It's not so much the lack of software options that results in people not taking to it - it's just too difficult (yep, I use Windows boxes at home and the office) for general users to handle at the moment without support, but that's changing - slowly, but it's happening.

        The thing that ticked me off the most about your comment was the assumption that "Linux based products require full disclosure of code" implies that programs running on Linux should be open source as well. You think Oracle gives their code to anyone who installs their database on Linux?
        As far as costs go, Linux is MUCH cheaper to setup and maintain if you're looking at a server setup (try checking prices on webspace on a Linux box and a Windows box to validate this).

        Anyway, don't take my word for it... there's lots of government bodies/educational institutions and stuff that are switching to Linux.

        It's a nice long comment but without research or knowledge of the subject.
        • Open your own eyes...

          While I agree the original poster's point on Linux programs *having* to be open source is BS, here's a BS point in your post:

          "here are very few of the reasons that people complain.
          Vista does indeed boot and get the job done (eventually). It has a little more eye candy - at the expense of having to wait a few extra minutes (which given the speed of the current hardware is unforgivable)."

          Vista is not slower than XP, it's actually a bit *faster*. I just bought yet another Vista Business computer (Powerspec B600) for $499, with 1GB of RAM, aP4 running at 3Ghz, and an Intel 945G video chipset. Not a hotrod by any definition.

          $500 for a desktop machine is pretty cheap, especially for a business computer. This is the 9'th B600 I've bought for the company.

          They are fast, stable, and problem free. Only 2 proprietary vertical market programs we use won't run under Vista, because A) they don't follow MS guidelines (and frankly one of them is utter crap, it uses Paradox 4 as a database), and B) they're both over 7 years old.

          At this point I have no trouble finding printer drivers and the users never see UAC prompts while running as standard users.

          Vista being slower is simply not true. Period. Note a P4 is a single-core processor, so the Vista machines I have aren't even Core Duo machines! Only 2 of the 9 have 2 GB of RAM, and *ALL* of them are less than $600, the price on these models has dropped $100 since I started buying them.

          Having used Vista since a couple of weeks after the retail release, I can tell you all the belly-aching about Vista "problems" is bull. No speed problems, no UAC nagging, no driver scarcity, nada.

          If you don't use hardware certified for Vista, it will be slow. But then *so will XP*. $500 buys a computer that can run all the eye candy (Areo) quickly. In fact, computers have been hefty enough for Vista for a couple of years now.

          Stop the FUD, think of the children!!!! (laughing)
          • Have to disagree...

            Based on my experience with Vista, it does indeed run slower than XP on the same hardware. If I strip out all effects and eye candy it's almost as fast (except for the horrendous boot-up time). It also caused us to rewrite our login and file distribution scripts (due to moving/renaming directories and registry keys), and even broke a few key apps. It was about as easy to get Ubuntu and OpenSuse integrated onto our domain, and both run better on the same hardware. We (and I believe many others) will be looking hard at alternative OSes when we are forced off XP.

            (And no, I'm not exactly a novice - I have lived & worked with every version of Windows since 1.03)
          • The end...

            ... of the upgrade path is in sight for operating systems.

            Ten years ago there were many things people wanted changed in their OS (no matter which one they were using). Now there are very few things left that people passionately desire. This left Microsoft changing the desktop and "File Edit View..." command lines to make people think they are getting more than changes under the hood.

            Other than having an OS that could run the programs from all of the others interchangeably, there is very little new ground left to break.
          • I imagine...

            ...people will pick up 64 bit instruction set versions when they have enough programs that utilize the change...

            ...who knows maybe a 128 bit version can be made?
          • Prophetic

            Very insightful.

            I tend to agree that the OS as we now know it may reach a *plateau* whereby the developments to current platforms are completely exhausted.

            I mean honestly, how much more *tweaking* can developers add to OS models? If we're to be honest, then we'd realise that all the *whistles and bells* that can possibly be added to an operating system have about been done.

            I still think the exception would have to be and will remain *system security* - something i'm sure we all agree you can never ever get enough of.

            Now there's a novel idea! Maybe MS could just concentrate on Security Apps' over the next 10 years or so - and securing current OS's ... oh, sorry, wishful thinking.
          • FUD

            Your experience is much different than mine. I have a video card (ATI All-In-Wonder 9600 XT) that loses 2/3 of it's funtionality. I needed to download drivers from aTI (Beta version at that) to get decent resolution. Still no TV tuner or Video Capture which, since I render video off a camcorder to convert to DVD, makes the move to Vista a mistake (Back to XP for me).
          • Totally agree

            Vista is faster than XP thanks to the SuperFetch, priority I/O and ReadyBoost technology. With SuperFetch, your pet application will launch lightning fast. With ReadyBoost, insert a 120GB USB 2.0 disk and you get 120G+ RAM! Can Mac or Linux do this?
          • Yes Linux can.

            Linux User 147560
          • Mac can too!

            Face it! Microsoft is dated. The writing is on the wall. Microsoft 2008= IBM 1983
          • If I had a penny.

            for every time an NBM'er predicted the death of MS, I'd be as rich as Gates.
          • If I had a penny

            No, you'd be somewhat less than truthful.

            Actually, it sounds as if you already are.

            Could I be wrong? Yes!

            Could I be right? Yes! Yes! Yes!
            Ole Man
          • due credit.

            You make no sense better than almost anyone.
          • Linux has had those features for years

            1) SuperFetch= ReadAheadEarly. Been in most versions of Linux for quite a while.
            2) ReadyBoost. Similar systems, similar loads: WinXP x64 uses > 2 GB ram, Linux uses < 1 GB (never uses the swap file it has).
          • You get a swap file

            of 120G. That's not new technology. Since Win 3.1 you could create a swap file on your hard disk. The problem is the speed difference between actual RAM and virtual Ram on either a harddisk or USB drive is significant. One of the reason earlier versions of Windows appeared to lockup or freeze up for a few seconds before refreshing the screen was that it was swapping objects from virtual RAM to actual RAM and vice versa. I have never used a MAC so I can't say whether they use a swapfile, but Linux does.
          • Readyboost is entirely different than what you

            are talking about. <br>
            I'll post the wikipedia material relevant again here, it's in a prior post as well. <br>
            <i>Using ReadyBoost-capable flash memory (NAND memory devices) for caching allows Windows Vista to service random disk reads with performance that is typically 80-100 times faster than random reads from traditional hard drives. This caching is applied to all disk content, not just the page file or system DLLs. Flash devices are typically slower than the hard drive for sequential I/O, so to maximize performance, ReadyBoost includes logic to recognize large, sequential read requests and then allows these requests to be serviced by the hard drive.[2]

            When a compatible device is plugged in, the Windows AutoPlay dialog offers an additional option to use the flash drive to speed up the system; an additional "ReadyBoost" tab is added to the drive's properties dialog where the amount of space to be used can be configured.[3] 250 MB to 4 GB of flash memory can be assigned. ReadyBoost encrypts, with AES-128, and compresses all data that is placed on the flash device; Microsoft has stated that a 2:1 compression ratio is typical, so that a 4 GB cache could contain upwards of 8 GB of data.[1]
            As you can see, ReadBoost is a technology and not just the "ability to use a flash drive as swap space". This is a common misunderstanding however with the technology being available since early betas i'm surprised there are still many who are unaware of it. I guess people not using Vista, commenting on it, might make that mistake.
          • I was actually

            responding to how the above commenter described ReadyBoost. I haven't read the specs on it or used it for that matter. However, the functionality he described was simply a swap file. Also, from what you described the techology is not necessarily new it is just improved to use more recent hardware. DOS had a disk I/O cache utility. I am glad to see that Microsoft has improved that system and adding new features to it that it allows it to make better use of current and future architecture.
          • To xunil

            Thank you though for pointing out some more of the benefits of ReadyBoost. It may help in making a decision on whether to upgrade or not.