On July 1, 2008 the only copy of Windows XP you can legally purchase is one that is still lying on a shop shelf. On June 30, 2008 Microsoft will no longer provide OEM and shrink-wrapped versions of this operating system. Six months later, the Dells and Hewlett Packards as well as the lesser known setups of this world will not be able to bundle Windows XP with new computers. Officially the big guys have stopped pushing this operating system, but following the insistence of many of their larger accounts, they quietly succumbed to the pressure. As from January 1, 2009 they will no longer be able to sell a computer running Windows XP.
Windows XP is Microsoft’s best operating system to date. It is stable, fast, nice and easy to use. Prior to Windows XP, Microsoft has relied on being able to engineer a better product than the previous one. In turn, users would willingly upgrade their operating systems to the benefit of both the user and Microsoft. This time round, many people feel that Vista is not an enhancement to the version it aims to supersede. In fact some have called Windows Vista an optional upgrade to Windows XP. If Windows Vista does not make it to the podium, Microsoft will earn a few billion less than what shareholders expect and this would not be good for Microsoft. The only way to get those dollars rolling would be to forcefully remove Windows XP and what better way to do it than to stop making it available? People liking their Windows XP computer is something Microsoft definitely does not want.
Vista is already costing Microsoft on other fronts. A class-action lawsuit against Microsoft over the "Vista-capable" stickers is underway. The lawsuit claims that Microsoft had authorized OEM manufacturers to stick the “Vista-capable” stickers on their Windows XP machines before Vista was officially released. It transpired that these PCs did not have enough computing power to run Vista Premium and could only manage Vista Home.
The reasons why I want to have the choice to purchase Windows XP legally are the following:
- I consider Windows Vista to be the paranoid aunt who requires me to take an oath on the Bible, Koran or equivalent before doing many basic and frequently-used tasks. Multiple prompts to do something simple are not OK with me. My Windows XP security solutions serve me well on this front and I don’t need the operating system to mother me from security weaknesses it tolerated in the first place.
- Windows XP is a hellishly reliable operating system, working well in both the Workgroup and the Domain scenarios. Windows Vista functions above average when set up as a Workgroup but performs below par if the computer is part of the domain. This still holds true even after SP1. For example, I have two identical Asus computers and to date I am unable to comprehend why the one running Vista freezes periodically. For anyone who might be asking, I swapped the hardware in its entirety and the problem remains.
- Windows Vista is a resource hogging operating system. I was there when Windows 3.0 made its appearance. During that era, upgrading to Windows 3.0 from MS-DOS was worth the additional hardware expenditure and hassle; this time round I do not feel it is. Why do I have to sponsor Microsoft’s inefficient coding? Why should I have to relive an era when doing something on a computer is painfully slow for no actual or perceived gains?
- I find it unfair that Microsoft has decided that everyone must have semi transparent windows and the new breed of animated icons, desktop gadgets, quick menus and other whatnots irrespective of whether they need or desire them. Moreover one can get many of these niceties in freeware, shareware and commercial form for Windows XP.
- A considerable amount of my existing software will not run under Windows Vista. Why should I throw away my investment?
- Since the hardware drivers in Windows Vista are different from Windows XP, the probability of existing hardware working on the new operating system is low. Like software vendors, many hardware vendors have learnt that they will drive up their sales if they do not provide hardware drivers for newer operating systems. This effectively forces consumers to pay for something they do not really need. Why should anyone have to donate a functional piece of kit to a landfill adding more plastic and metal to the environment?
- Upgrading to Windows Vista is anything but cheap.
Some might argue that no one is stopping me from keeping my Windows XP and that I could use it till hell freezes over. This is not correct because the moment Windows XP is no longer available for purchase, I cannot purchase Windows XP for a new computer even if I wanted to. My fully functional homogeneous network running Windows XP computers will start sprouting Vista machines with all their problems and inefficiencies. Over a reasonably short period of time, happy users will be complaining about problems and quirks they had forgotten about when their machines started running Windows XP.
If one goes on the debatable assumption that keeping Windows XP available is not profitable for Microsoft then there are many alternatives that would make everyone happy:
- Provide Windows XP only in electronic form. Have a page on www.microsoft.com from where one could download the software and purchase a key. In this scenario Microsoft retains full control.
- Place the binary in public domain allowing sites to charge for the media or use technologies such as bit torrent to distribute the downloads while retaining the key generator mechanisms at Microsoft.
- Pass on both the binary and the licensing mechanism to a third party. Microsoft would strike a profitable deal without having to manage the operating system and the licensing issues.
Windows XP sports a visual design that combines a sleek look, clean lines, and appealing colors with a task-oriented design and exceptionally streamlined navigation. I didn’t stay that; Microsoft does in one of the Windows XP installation screens. All I ask is to have the opportunity to keep it until I decided it is worth upgrading to something better.
Update: In June, Microsoft announced that it will support Windows XP up to 2014.