Editor’s note – July 19, 2010 – On July 12, 2010, Microsoft made a clarification to its Windows Life Cycle Policy. This does not impact the product support policy outlined in Microsoft's May 2004 announcement.
REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 27, 2007 – In an effort to respond to feedback the company is hearing from its customers and partners, Microsoft is extending availability of Windows XP editions among original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and retail channels for an additional five months to June 30, 2008. In addition, the company will continue to offer Windows XP Starter Edition in emerging markets where it is currently available for the rapidly growing class of hardware-constrained ultra-low cost PCs until June 30, 2010.
PressPass spoke with Mike Nash, corporate vice president, Windows Product Management to learn more about this decision.
PressPass: Why are you making this change?
Mike Nash, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Windows Product Management
Nash: While we’ve been pleased with the positive response we’ve seen and heard from customers using Windows Vista, there are some customers who need a little more time to make the switch to Windows Vista. As it turns out, our official policy as of 2002 is that versions of Windows are available through our retail and direct OEM partners for four years after they ship. Obviously this policy didn’t work with Windows XP given Windows Vista’s delivery date. As a practical matter, most of our previous operating system releases were available for about two years after the new version shipped, so maybe we were a little ambitious to think that we would need to make Windows XP available for only a year after the release of Windows Vista.
So we’re responding to feedback we have gotten from our OEM partners that some customers will benefit by extending availability of Windows XP to June 30, 2008 instead of the planned date of Jan. 30, 2008. Also, since some of the systems that ship in emerging markets don’t meet the requirements for Windows Vista, we will be extending availability of Windows XP Starter Edition to June 30, 2010. This will allow our OEM partners who sell PCs in emerging markets more opportunity to offer genuine Windows licenses. Windows XP Starter Edition is tailored to local markets, in local languages, and is compatible with a wide range of Windows-based applications and devices.
PressPass: What’s the feedback you’re hearing from customers in general about the adoption of Windows Vista, and what is Microsoft doing to help customers who need assistance preparing for the upgrade?
Nash: With more than 60 million licenses sold as of this summer, Windows Vista is on track to be the fastest-selling operating system in Microsoft’s history. And while many large businesses are moving incredibly fast to Windows Vista -- such as Banco Bradesco, Continental Airlines and Charter Communications, all of which broadly adopted the new system shortly after it became available – we are committed to helping customers of all sizes with the transition. Some need more time, and we understand and respect that. For others, we’re delivering a variety of tools to help them, from toolkits to aid in hardware assessment and application compatibility, to Desktop Deployment Planning Services provided by more than 600 partners today. We are continually listening to our customers and partners about ways that we can help them realize the benefits that Windows Vista offers.
We are also very excited by the great work that our hardware, software and OEM partners have done to help make Windows Vista more compatible. Today, the top 50 consumer applications now have a Windows Vista compatible version. In addition, the number of devices supported by Windows Vista is more than 2 million.
PressPass: Why does Microsoft think this is the right thing to do for these customers in particular? What will likely change in those five months to help them better prepare for Windows Vista upgrades?
Nash: Although our research with customers before and since launch has reaffirmed our belief that the previous plan to offer Windows XP through Jan 2008 would address the needs of most customers, we did get clear feedback that there was a set of customers who needed a bit more time. Feedback from our OEM partners and from customers is that the June 30, 2008 date will address those needs. Of course, our plan was and continues to be that our system builder partners will be able to offer Windows XP until Jan. 30, 2009.
PressPass: You mentioned that you’re pleased with adoption with Windows Vista to date, in general. What trends are you seeing in Windows Vista adoption that are particularly surprising compared to previous OS deployments?
Nash: While enterprise customer sales continue to be a fairly even mixture of volume license and OEM purchases, we’re seeing some new trends with retail customers in particular, as the number of PCs and other machines sold on the market is approximately double what we saw when Windows XP launched. A large cause of this increase in PC sales is due to the drop in hardware costs for OEM manufacturers. We’re also seeing more retail customers purchasing their new Windows operating system when they get a new PC than we ever have before, rather than purchasing it standalone. And that trend is likely to continue, even as PC purchasing preferences shift, as analysts are predicting that mobile PC sales will eclipse those of traditional desktop PCs by 2010.
Another interesting trend of note is the recent emergence of what some would call “ultra-low cost” PCs – that is to say, PCs that are sold at reduced prices because of their more limited hardware capabilities. On average, these machines tend to have lower RAM requirements compared to their more mainstream PC counterparts, and are becoming very big in emerging markets.
We’re seeing great interest from our OEM partners in having Windows on these machines, such as pre-installing them with Starter edition in over 100 emerging market countries worldwide. That continues to be a trend we’re keeping our eye on, as even though we expect hardware costs to continue to drop, it reaffirms for us that not all customers want the same thing from their computers.
It’s early days still, but if things continue as we’re expecting, Windows Vista will be the fastest selling operating system in our history. And while that’s gratifying on one level when you consider all the architectural changes we introduced, it also suggests we’ve done a lot of things right in delivering value to our customers. But we want to be sensitive to how our customers’ needs and experiences continue to evolve, so we’ll continue to listen and look at how we can help our customers through the transition to Windows Vista.