"I don't think an online petition is the right method" to get XP's life extended, Gillen added. Instead, he advised customers to lobby Microsoft through its own channels, such as through the feedback section of the company's site and via mechanisms such as forums available to enterprise site licensees and developers.
An "XP classic" mode for Vista?
One complaint that many users have is that Vista's UI is significantly different from XP's for no obvious reason. The Burton Group's Jones said it would have been good for Microsoft to have included a UI compatibility mode in Vista so that XP users could have kept their familiar interface. "For getting normal work done, you don't need the Aero interface," he said.
The last time Microsoft significantly changed the user interface was in 1999, when it offered Windows 2000 to replace Windows 98 and Millennium, and there are millions of people who know no other interface, Jones noted.
By contrast, PC users at the time had been through two major interface changes in just five years, from DOS to Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. "Today, there are very few people who have not used XP before," he added, so the impact of a changed UI is greater. He notes that Microsoft did not get significant adoption of Microsoft Word until it added WordPerfect shortcut support, and he said an XP UI option in Vista would boost Vista migration. But he noted that it may be too hard for Microsoft to add such a feature now and instead should have done so as part of initial Vista planning.
Ovum's Davis also has doubts as to whether an XP compatibility mode would be doable today. "I suspect that approach would raise technical complexity and compatibility issues," he said. But he understands why some people would have wanted such an option: "The difficulties that new users and former XP users experience when learning the Vista interface tend to suggest that -- for all of Microsoft's extensive customer usability research -- the company's perspective on what is intuitive is still somewhat removed from the reality of many users' experience."
Gartner's Silver said that Vista's UI is not that big a deal for most users, so he would not favor a UI compatibility mode. "I think that issue is overstated," he said. A bigger concern is the UI transition that Office 2007 forces, given its adoption of the nearly menu-less approach of Internet Explorer 7, which hides capabilities from users and makes it hard for them to know what to do or where to do it.
Ready or not, prepare for Vista
Regardless of whether Microsoft keeps XP around longer than June 30, all four analysts said that users should make the switch. The question is when, not whether.
Gartner's Silver recommended that most businesses wait until spring 2009, after Microsoft has issued more updates and software providers have had more time to update their applications.
A business not comfortable with Vista could continue to use XP for another four years, Silver said, since Microsoft will continue to support the OS with security updates until April 2014. The Burton Group's Jones said a good way to judge the right time to switch is when users start complaining they have Vista at home and want it at work. Such internal pressure is what got XP into enterprises during the transitions from Windows 98 and 2000, and gave IT the comfort that users were ready for the change, he said.