Microsoft will phase out Windows XP as an installation option for brand-name computer makers faster than it has any other operating system.
The move could hit SMEs, but the decision was probably not made to pump up Vista revenues at XP's expense, an analyst said.
According to Microsoft's posted timetable, the company will stop licensing Windows XP to OEMs and terminate retail sales of the operating system 31 January 2008. That is just 12 months from the general availability of Windows Vista, XP's successor.
By comparison, Windows 95 was terminated 30 months after Windows 98's debut, which in turn had an 18-month run of availability after the release of its successor, Windows Millennium.
On the business side, Windows NT Workstation 4.0 was available to original equipment manufacturers (OEM) for 26 months after Windows 2000 Professional appeared.
Windows 2000 Professional lived 27 months on the OEM list after Windows XP Professional made it to market.
Paul DeGroot, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, research firm said Microsoft wants “to push Vista, but I don't see them forcing this on the market.”
A bigger motivation, he suggested was that Microsoft wanted to simplify the number of product lines in the market place.
Another reason for the shorter cycle, said DeGroot, is the much longer span between the release of XP and Vista, compared to the relatively short periods between earlier versions of Windows. "You're looking at more than five years" between XP and Vista; the gap between the release of Windows 2000 and XP was less than two years.
"Microsoft wants to indicate to the marketplace and ISVs [independent software vendors] in particular, that Vista compatibility is something they should be working on today," DeGroot said. "I see this as them encouraging the partner ecosystem to make sure that they're working on Vista compatibility now."
DeGroot said the withdrawal of XP "shouldn't have much impact on the business community. Business customers have downgrade rights because they buy through volume, and most already own XP volume media" that they can use to substitute for Vista after January 2008.
Small business is the group that may be at the most risk of disruption, DeGroot said, because those companies often buy PCs from OEMs or at retail, but may not have downgrade rights to, for example, dump Vista for Windows XP.