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Enterprises Still Prefer XP, but Its Time Is Running Out

Windows XP powers "71 percent of PCs within North American and European enterprises," according to a report published last week by Forrester Research.

The use of Microsoft's venerable Windows XP operating system still predominates in enterprises, with XP powering "71 percent of PCs within North American and European enterprises," according to a report published last week by Forrester Research.

Microsoft's current flagship OS, Windows Vista, has been released as a product for two years, but just less than 10 percent of enterprise executives surveyed by Forrester said they had deployed Vista company wide. Forrester interviewed "962 IT decision-makers" from August to September for the study.

The report, "Enterprises Warming to Windows Vista," interpreted those findings to mean that enterprises are migrating to Vista. In addition, Forrester researchers found that almost half of its respondents planned to start their Vista deployments by the end of 2009.

The end of 2009 could be when Windows 7 becomes available, although Microsoft consistently estimates "early 2010" for its public release. Just 15 percent in Forrester's study planned to skip Vista for Windows 7.

This study was led by Benjamin Gray and team, which have recommended against skipping Vista in past Forrester studies. In this study, the team acknowledges that it's possible for enterprises to skip Vista for Windows 7. However, the difference between Vista and Windows 7 is mostly in the user interface, since the two operating systems share the same code base, according to the report's authors.

Windows XP is entering the mature stage of its lifecycle. The availability of XP for new machines depends on OEM vendors continuing to support downgrade options, the authors cautioned.

In deciding between migrating to Vista or skipping it for Windows 7, the question for IT professionals is really just how much support for Windows XP remains. Last month, I asked Microsoft about the remaining days of XP.

First, XP can't be purchased from Microsoft or its vendor partners as of June 30, 2008, according to a Microsoft spokesperson by e-mail. You can still get XP via Vista downgrade rights when purchasing new machines. Microsoft makes a distinction between OEMs such as Dell and HP and smaller shops called system builders. System builders have through May 30, 2009 to "take delivery against those [downgrade] orders."

Forrester's study adds what appears to be new information: OEMs have through July 2009 to take delivery on Vista downgrade orders.

Microsoft's "mainstream support" for XP will end in April of 2009. Microsoft defines mainstream support as "no-charge incident support, warranty claims and support for design changes and feature requests."

After mainstream support ends, XP enters its "extended support" phase, which will expire in April of 2014. Microsoft will offer security updates free of charge during the extended support period through its Microsoft Update Web portal. You can also buy other forms of support during this phase, as described via this Microsoft help page.

In other words, some sort of support for XP will continue for another five years. However, IT professionals who still want to hold onto XP will face a more impending deadline of mid-2009, when they likely won't be able to buy new PCs with Vista downgrade rights.

For more details on Forrester's "Enterprises Warming to Windows Vista" study, which describes other options such as Mac OS X and Linux OSes, go to Forrester's Web page here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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