The company has no plans to tightly integrate Fixit Center in future service pack updates for Vista -- it's unlikely that Microsoft will release another for XP -- Brownell confirmed. But Microsoft will explore how to beef up the automated troubleshooting concept into the next edition of Windows. "We're talking with the Windows 8 planning team on how best to continue our move toward integration," Brownell said.
Fixit Center can be installed on an unlimited number of PCs, said Brownell, who added that Microsoft is working on an enterprise-focused version for possible release later this year. The current client, which targets consumers and small businesses, doesn't have a final form release schedule. "That will be determined by feedback," Brownell said.
As Microsoft creates additional troubleshooters, they will be passed to the client software via an automatic, in-the-background update process, similar to Windows Update's.
Microsoft's Fixit brand has been in place for nearly one-and-a-half years -- it debuted the automated tools in November 2008 , and has crafted scores of them to accompany support documents to help users apply one-time repairs or security mitigations -- but this is the first time that it's pitched the concept of troubleshooters to Windows XP and Vista.
The Fixit Center launch couldn't come at a better time for Windows XP users, who have been in what Microsoft calls "extended support" for over a year. In extended support, Microsoft only provides paid support on a per-incident basis or through its various prepaid support programs.
Windows XP is slated for full retirement from all support, including security updates, in April 2014.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com .
Read more about Windows in Computerworld's Windows Knowledge Center.