I Want My Windows XP!

Our leader Doug Barney is in Redmond again this week, and has delegated today's Redmond Report to Peter Varhol, executive editor of reviews at Redmond magazine. Doug will return to these pages next week.

Microsoft has announced that it will phase out the availability of Windows XP as an OS option for new system orders as of Jan. 31, 2008. This phaseout also affects retail sales of the OS. However, those who build systems for custom and turnkey solutions have an additional year of availability, until Jan. 31, 2009.

While this means pushing users who are buying new systems to Vista more quickly than in the past, it doesn't necessarily mean that Microsoft is trying to accelerate initial sales of its new OS. Rather, it may be that the company is interested in simplifying its number of offerings in this area. Given the number of Vista SKUs available, that may not be such a bad idea.

The designation of a sales cutoff date for Windows XP will likely mean accelerated business for systems vendors such as Dell and HP, as well as strong upgrade sales, as users look to faster hardware and more memory and disk space than they may currently have. But for those who want to stick with XP for a while longer, Microsoft made life just a little more difficult.

It's not clear when the first service pack for Windows Vista will be coming, but many users have expressed the opinion, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that they don't consider a new Microsoft OS to be fully delivered until after the first service pack. What about you? Would you like the option of choosing Windows XP for a longer period of time? Let me know at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

A Dark Day for BlackBerry Users
At gatherings with fellow industry professionals, sometimes it seems like I'm the only person in the room without a BlackBerry. So reports that the BlackBerry push e-mail network went down on Tuesday night must have caused a collective scream of BlackBerry withdrawal pains from millions of users.

The good news is the system seems to have been restored for most users shortly before noon on Wednesday.

Reports are still sketchy, but it appeared that millions of devices in North America were affected. Users who called the support line at RIM received a recorded message saying that the company is experiencing service disruptions and is working on the problem by resetting the system. Once the system is working again, it will take hours to clear out the backlog of messages.

BlackBerry users weren't completely shut down; the device was still able to operate as a perfectly adequate wireless phone. However, that wasn't likely to bring much consolation to those who are used to getting their e-mails.

If you're a BlackBerry user, how were you inconvenienced by this blackout? Let me know at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Would You Use Online Productivity Applications?
With reports of Google putting together an online office productivity suite, it may be time to take a look at Microsoft's Office Live offering to see if your application needs can be met through hosted applications.

Many companies today, primarily small businesses that don't want to make an investment in software and systems, use hosted solutions via Terminal Services or Citrix, and may view online productivity applications as a natural extension of this model.

Perhaps because Microsoft doesn't want to risk cannibalizing its Office franchise, assembling a productivity suite using the Live products is a bit more difficult. Office Live isn't a one-for-one replacement of Office; rather, it supports collaboration on the Web with disk space and features for small business. You'll have to check out the other offerings here and assemble your own suite.

While Microsoft claims that its Live products are all in beta, it does charge for Office Live premium services. The pricing ranges from free to $39.95 a month, depending on the services, online disk space and e-mail accounts you choose.

Are you willing to use online productivity applications? Give me your feedback at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.

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