A number of outlets reported today that Microsoft has extended the availability of Windows XP for manufacturers of ultra low-cost PCs for an additional two years. The catch? It's not XP Starter Edition, but it is Windows XP Home. That's right, no more XP Pro in June for these computers; XP Home, with its lack of important enterprise features, may be fine in some emerging markets or for home users, but users in many school settings will miss administrative and security features.
Here's what's missing from XP Home (but present in XP Pro) that a typical school deployment could use to its significant advantage:
- Domain join
- Group policy
- Fine control of user groups and permissions
- Internet Information Services (allowing students to host websites locally for testing and learning)
- Offline files and folders
- Automated and remote software installation
- Multi-lingual user interface (those foreign kids really needed to learn English anyway, right?)
Microsoft lays this out quite nicely on their website. Get a clue, Microsoft: the educational market does not equal the home market.
As Ars Technica put it,
...the success of the Asus Eee PC and widespread interest in other low-cost laptops like the OLPC and Intel's Classmate PC really leaves the software giant with little choice if it wants to play in that space. Vista is just too resource-hungry for laptops with limited storage space, relatively minute amounts of RAM, and slow CPUs. Extending the availability of Windows XP for the budget laptop category is currently the company's best alternative to ceding this market to Linux.
At this rate, though, as Microsoft keeps throwing aging scraps at a market set to explode, one has to wonder why anyone would look beyond Linux for the ultra low-cost PCs. XP Pro at least has a stable, usable feature set for a variety of settings and provides a fair amount of flexibility for administrators. XP Home is for the WalMart set. Ubuntu just looks better and better, doesn't it?