Microsoft Corp. will not dump Vista when Windows 7 launches and plans to keep selling it to computer makers, system builders, volume licensees, and consumers at retail until at least January 2011, a Microsoft spokesman said, citing long-running policy.
The company, however, will drop support for the three consumer editions of Windows Vista in less than three years.
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Earlier Monday, a Microsoft general manager hinted to the IDG News Service that the company might ditch Vista as soon as Windows 7 ships. He also said that support for all versions of Vista will end in April 2012.
Neither is true, according to the company.
Richard Francis, general manager and Windows client business group lead at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, told the news service Monday that, "We are still not sure if [computer makers] will be able to ship Vista once Windows 7 is made available." The comment fueled speculation that Microsoft, embarrassed by the poor reception given to Vista, was getting ready to abandon the operating system at the first opportunity.
In a follow-up reply to questions today, a Microsoft spokeswoman declined to confirm that the company would, in fact, dump Vista when Windows 7 appears. "We have not made any final end-of-sales decisions for Windows Vista," she said in an e-mail.
But she also pointed out that Microsoft's policy is to keep an OS in distribution for at least four years after its debut. "Under the Support Lifecycle policy, Windows desktop licenses are available for four years after general availability in all standard product distribution channels -- direct OEM, system builders, retail and volume licensing programs via licenses or via downgrade rights," Microsoft's Web site states.
For Vista, that mark would be January 2011 -- four years after its January 2007 launch.
Even without that policy, it would be a sharp departure from past practice if Microsoft did drop Vista shortly after Windows 7 shipped. According to Computerworld's analysis of Windows 95's, Windows 98's, and Windows XP's transition periods -- the time span during which the company sold both old and new versions -- Microsoft has never offered less than a six-month overlap. When Windows 98 was released in June 1998, for example, its predecessor, Windows 95, was kept on the OEM and retail rolls for 2.5 years. Windows 98, however, was available for just six months after the 2001 launch of its successor, Windows XP.
"Windows 7 has the potential to not be met with the same resistance as Vista," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "But to try to stop Vista or make it unavailable, that would just draw attention," he added. "The truth is, few people will be likely to order it once Windows 7 is available."