Microsoft should keep Windows XP available until at least 2009, not end the majority of sales on June 30 as currently planned, said analysts at Gartner and The Burton Group. "A good rule of thumb in any OS transition is that you have to have the original and new products available for at least two years to handle customer [migration] needs," said Richard Jones, a Burton Group vice president and service director. But Microsoft gave customers just 11 months in its original plan, in which new XP licenses would have ended on Dec. 31, and even the additional six months that Microsoft granted when it changed the date to June 30 is not enough, he said.
"It would be wise for XP to be available until the end of 2008," concurred Michael Silver, a research vice president at Gartner. Even though Microsoft does a good job of addressing application compatibility, those efforts miss homegrown applications and applications from minor and defunct software companies. That's why a two-year transition period is more sensible, Silver said.
[ Learn whether you can get XP after the June 30 cut-off sales date ]
Jones said Microsoft may have pushed a too-aggressive transition schedule because of how long it took to release Vista, a delay that deprived it of new earnings. "Microsoft is up against a rock, with Vista coming out seven years after XP's release. But it's their fault it took seven years, not my fault," he said, adding that users should not be forced to rush their transition because of Microsoft's internal delays.
Microsoft says it's listening
Microsoft has not rejected the possibility of extending XP's availability beyond June 30, saying it will listen to customer and partner feedback. "That's what informed our decision to extend the availability of XP initially and what will continue to guide us," a Microsoft spokesperson told Computerworld Australia when asked the company's reaction to InfoWorld's "Save XP" petition effort asking that XP be kept on sale indefinitely. That petition has gathered more than 79,000 signatures. (Microsoft has not responded to InfoWorld's request for a reaction to that petition.)
"It wouldn't surprise me if Microsoft backed away from its June 30 cut-off date for XP if a sizable number of XP customers continue to complain," said Ovum analyst Dwight Davis, "especially if the company sees evidence of customers abandoning Windows altogether rather than moving to Vista. Microsoft in the past has sometimes drawn lines in the sand [such as with some onerous licensing model changes a few years ago], but then relented to customer pressure and softened its positioning," he noted.
"Microsoft has a good handle on what the customer attitudes are, and if in June it's clear that they're not ready to move to Vista, I wouldn't be surprised if it keeps XP available longer," said Al Gillen, a research vice president at IDC. He noted that Microsoft was flexible in its end-of-life deadlines for Windows NT Workstation, 2000, and XP.