Microsoft's plan to phase out Windows XP and drive end users on to the Windows Vista platform is beginning to cause concern among end users, if the emerging web discussions are typical.
Microsoft plans to end shipments of Windows XP to original equipment manufacturers on 31 January 2008. It will also stop selling retail licences at the same time. Editions affected include the Professional, Tablet PC, Professional x64, Home and Media Centre editions of XP.
This is just 12 months from the official launch of XP’s successor Windows Vista.
Contributors to SiliconValley.com cited issues with the suitability of Vista on existing machines and said they might just go to Linux instead.
"If Microsoft forces us to make a choice of Vista or Linux, they might just be unpleasantly surprised as to the choice many of us will make," one contributor wrote. "I am telling anyone who has not yet upgraded from Win 9x to XP that they had better do it right away because Vista will never run on their Win 98-era machine. If they don't upgrade to XP right away, they will have to switch to Linux. The only alternative to that is to throw away their computer and buy a brand new one!"
Another contributor said it was "time for enterprises to stock up on shrink-wrapped copies of XP Pro".
A contributor to the Direct2Dell site expressed similar reservations.
"I don't care how much you've tested your systems with Vista, it simply will not be enough," the contributor said "In the corporate world, there are countless applications that are going to fail miserably with Vista in offices that are standardized on XP Pro."
Dell has said it plans to continue offering XP for now. Dell recognised the needs of small business customers and understood that more time was needed to transition to a new operating system, the company said.
In a statement, Microsoft acknowledged its Vista emphasis.
"Windows Vista is safer, easier to use, better connected, and more entertaining that any operating system we've ever released, and we're encouraged by the positive customer response we've seen to date," the company said in a statement.
"It's standard practice to allow OEMs, retailers, and system builders to continue offering the previous version of Windows for a certain period of time after a new version is released, and this information as it applies to Windows XP has been available to our partners and to the public," since last year, the company said.
Microsoft has reported that more than 20 million copies of Vista shipped from 30 January to 28 February, the first month of general availability. A Harris survey of home-based users in March, however, found that only 12 percent of the 2,223 respondents planned to upgrade.
There are pluses and minuses to upgrading, according to analyst Michael Cherry, of Directions on Microsoft. Security features, such as BitLocker Drive Encryption, are driving upgrades, he said. However, hardware issues have been a problem, Cherry said.
"The major factor I think that's putting a damper on it is people being uncomfortable with what the hardware requirements are," said Cherry.
Questions have arisen about configuration matters such as the circuitry of graphics cards, he said. Lawsuits have even arisen about what it means to be Vista-capable, Cherry added.
Although Cherry said he did not have specific estimates on Vista shipments, he said Vista appears to have not affected PC sales rates, either upward or downward.
Vista shipments have been about as expected, said analyst Brett Waldman of IDC, who also acknowledged equipment issues with the new platform. Shipment levels so far are similar to what XP presented, he said.
To run Vista's Aero interfaces requires an advanced graphics card, Waldman said. A lot of low-end PCs do not have that, he said. Otherwise, upgrading a PC to 1GB of memory should make it Vista-capable, said Waldman.
Microsoft's decision to cancel XP shipments was "what we expect", Waldman said. Business customers, however, are putting Vista upgrades on hold. "They're waiting 12 to 18 months to evaluate it," said Waldman.
The upcoming Windows Server Longhorn platform, meanwhile, is looking good, Cherry said. "It's very stable."