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Dell Once Again Offers Windows XP

Back by popular demand: Windows XP. PC maker Dell Inc. said on its Web site Thursday it will once again let home PC buyers choose between Microsoft Corp.'s older operating system and Windows Vista when they purchase certain new machines.

Dell, like many computer makers, stopped offering XP on most home desktops and laptops soon after Vista launched at the end of January. By late March, the company said only two models aimed at home users could be configured with XP (the option still existed on many models for business users).

But on Dell's IdeaStorm Web site, where visitors can post suggestions for the company and vote on the ones they think are important, a plea titled "Don't eliminate XP just yet" racked up more than 10,700 votes.

"We heard you loud and clear on bringing the Windows XP option back to our Dell consumer PC offerings," Dell responded in a Web posting Thursday.

The company said it will immediately offer XP again an option for four models of its Inspiron notebooks and two models of its Dimension desktop PCs.

This comes just weeks after Dell said it is also planning to offer PCs with Linux, a free operating system that competes with Windows.

"This is really odd," said Michael Silver, research vice president at Gartner. "On new PCs, consumers usually do want the latest and greatest."

Microsoft countered that Dell's move was in response to a "small minority of customers" with a "specific request." Michael Burk, a product manager for Microsoft's Windows Client group, said in an e-mailed statement, "The vast majority of consumers want the latest and greatest technology, and that includes Windows Vista."

Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director of JupiterResearch, said many consumers continue to buy XP because it's familiar, it works with their existing hardware and programs, and is overall "good enough," even though Vista boasts a prettier user interface and stronger security.

"Microsoft is going to have to work hard to make sure that even if companies like Dell are offering XP, their customers don't want it," Gartenberg said. Now is time for the company to crank up Vista marketing, but that may be harder than it sounds.

"Operating systems inherently by nature are kind of boring," he said.

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