Opinion: Will XP's expiry breathe new life into Vista?

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Opinion: Will XP's expiry breathe new life into Vista?

Microsoft has cut off the supply of Windows XP, but enterprises are still unwilling to give it up.

With the end of June came another ending; the cut-off date after which Microsoft will no longer supply Windows XP to retail outlets or to PC vendors. It marks the beginning of the end for one of the longest-serving and probably most widely-adopted versions of Windows that the company has produced.

I believe that this is a monumental mistake on the part of the software giant, as there is clearly still a great deal of demand for Windows XP, whereas its successor is unloved and unwanted. Microsoft might believe that it can force customers to migrate to Vista by withdrawing the older platform, but this is a dangerous strategy that could backfire.

The problem with Vista is that it is the wrong product at the wrong time.

The economic outlook is not good, to say the least, and so the majority of organisations are looking at ways of reining in spending, not drawing up plans for a costly and complex migration to a new platform.

Unlike earlier transitions, there is a steep difference in the hardware needed to run Vista at an adequate level of performance, when compared with its predecessor. This might be acceptable if Vista offered some tangible benefit that would give businesses a compelling reason to move, but it is difficult to think of a single area where Vista is better than XP.

Microsoft has tried to counter this with campaigns listing reasons for customers to migrate to its latest operating system, but quite frankly, I find most of these claims dubious. My experience of using Vista is that it takes longer to accomplish most tasks, simply because many functions are hidden away further down in the menu system than they are with XP.

It thus takes more mouse clicks to find and open Administrative Tools, for example. And yes, you can use Vista’s built-in search to find it, but is this the best Microsoft can come up with for a 21st century operating system? I thought we had left behind typing out commands when DOS was retired.

The situation businesses therefore face is that a Vista migration will cost them a lot of money, and give little or no return on their investment. In fact, productivity may even decline.

Small wonder, then, that enterprises are mostly avoiding it like the plague. In June, it was revealed that chip giant Intel has decided not to move its own employees to Vista, while IT services firm CapGemini told IT Week earlier this year that none of its enterprise customers has shown any interest in a Vista migration.

So what happens now? The supply of XP might have been cut off, but support will continue until at least 2014. Organisations with an enterprise software agreement will continue to use XP, as they have the downgrade rights to deploy this even on newly-bought systems. So these companies are likely to remain on XP for the foreseeable future.

Smaller businesses and consumers are likely to find that they have no choice but to accept Vista on new PCs, but the danger for Microsoft is that there are many attractive alternatives around these days. The take-up of Apple Mac systems is growing, and Linux is now as easy to use as Windows, as its popularity in mini laptops such as the Asus Eee PC has shown.

If Microsoft wants my advice, it should snap out of its corporate denial over Vista, and admit it has made an operating system that nobody wants. The fact is, XP is going to be the platform of choice until at least the launch of Windows 7, whether Microsoft likes it or not.
itweek.co.uk @ 2010 Incisive Media

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