Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has offered to keep selling Windows XP beyond June 30, when it is scheduled to come to the end of its life - if customers show that they truly want it. By truly want it, Microsoft means that sales of Vista will have to plummet and sales of XP will have to explode in the coming two months.
Speaking at the opening of a Microsoft innovation centre in Mons, Belgium, Ballmer said that "if customer feedback varies, we can always wake up smarter." He did point out however that most consumers are choosing to buy Vista over XP at this time. That of course includes all the PCs that are shipping with Vista, and the fact that most retailers are stocking Vista rather than XP makes it much harder to buy the older operating system.
There is a vocal group of people on the internet pointing out the inherent advantages of XP over Vista and pushing for the extension of the OS’s lifespan beyond June 30, which would presumably also see support for the OS extended beyond April 2009. Ballmer is tipping his hat to this group by saying that if the market were to demand it, Microsoft would acquiesce. The fact of the matter is however that sales of XP are not in-line with the vocal demand we’re seeing for Microsoft to continue selling it, and Vista – for all of its muted reviews – is selling well.
The issue isn’t really one of continuing to sell XP to consumers, it’s businesses who are choosing to keep XP until such a time as Vista is more compatible with all of the utilities they use on a daily basis. The fact that Microsoft has extended full support for XP into 2009 was a significant step that signified the company recognising that many people and businesses would not be upgrading to Vista if given the choice.
The problem for businesses now will be in obtaining copies of XP in the future, say if they expand their operation and need new machines for new staff. Microsoft will be continuing to sell XP with ultra low-cost PCs, at the very bottom of the market, but for anything else it will be impossible to buy XP after June 30. Ballmer’s comments may, however, be a lowering of the bar on Microsoft’s behalf ; the company could continue to sell XP to business customers, citing the market feedback that Ballmer referred to.