It's just two months until Microsoft plans to pull the plug on Windows XP — arguably its best operating system to date.
At present, Microsoft finds itself in an unenviable position — its customers want to continue buying and using Windows XP, while its stockholders demand it makes those customers upgrade to Vista.
In an attempt to please both camps, Microsoft has created a licensing loophole — it sells its customers Vista but allows them to continue using XP using so called "downgrade rights".
Because of this, HP and Dell both plan to supply PCs loaded with XP well past the June 2008 deadline set for XP's execution. Essentially, they will be selling XP machines with a prepaid upgrade to Vista included — if and when the customer chooses to do so.
All that pre-release bragging about how well Vista was going to be received didn't convince anyone. Microsoft may even have known Vista was going to be a flop — and a loss in the lawsuit alleging it lied about what constituted Vista-capable hardware could prove it.
Microsoft has a history of delaying the death knell of its operating systems. Back in 2004, Windows 98 required constant rebooting, security wasn't even an afterthought and the dreaded blue screen of death was an everyday occurrence and yet, people still refused to swap it for XP and Redmond decided to keep the superannuated OS on life support for a while longer.
It took another 18 months before Microsoft finally killed off Windows 98.
Back to 2008 and XP is stable and relatively secure. This time, it looks like Microsoft is going to have a much bigger fight on its hands getting customers to forget an old OS.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently said that the US$500 million (that's $500,000,000) already spent on marketing Vista wasn't enough and more cash was needed to generate "excitement" around the operating system.
This week another Microsoft executive claimed that people simply have a bad perception of Vista. He said that Vista is brilliant and if only people went out and bought it, they would love it.
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All these pronouncements are signs that Microsoft is desperate to try and turn around sales so it does not have to further delay the death of XP.
From speaking to local CIOs, more than a year after its launch and even after the release of SP1, Vista is still far from being a priority.
Over the years, I can't remember how many times Microsoft has claimed it listens to customer feedback and responds.
I think the ears may be a little waxy. Let me sum it up for you Microsoft: even though you are making your customers pay for Vista they are still using XP. That alone should tell you what you need to know.
Extend the life of XP until your customers are ready to upgrade. That day will come. One day.