Before I go any further, let me set one thing straight… for the majority of Microsoft’s enterprise customers, there are very few reasons why Windows XP should be deployed on new PCs in preference to Windows Vista.
Vista has now been available to enterprises for over a year and a half, has long since passed the first service pack release, and many of the initial difficulties are now resolved. It’s not perfect, but very few software products are. For that matter, neither is Windows XP (nor for that matter are Mac OS X or the various Linux distributions).
Sadly, for Microsoft, the general perception of Windows Vista is not a good one. Ask anybody who ran Vista from day 1 and they will have stories of the problems that they have had because ISVs and IHVs were too slow to update their applications and device drivers (hey, they only had 5 years notice…). But ask the same question from anybody who waited a few months and it’s a different story – Vista runs perfectly well on most modern PCs (and I don’t mean an exotic machine with a fantastic custom hardware specification – I mean pretty much any business PC purchased in the last few years, as long as it has enough memory). Unfortunately there is a saying that perception is reality.
So today is the last day that you can buy Windows XP. Except that it’s not really. In an open letter to Windows Customers entitled “An Update on the Windows Roadmap”, Bill Veghte (Senior Vice President for Online Services and Windows Business Group at Microsoft) explains that:
“It’s true that we will stop selling Windows XP as a retail packaged product and stop licensing it directly to major PC manufacturers. But customers who still need Windows XP will be able to get it.”
So you can get XP. But why would you? The simple fact is, that if you are looking to deploy a new Windows desktop in the next few months, then basing your plans on XP is building a problem for later.
In terms of the product cycle and future roadmap for Windows XP (Professional, 32-bit):
- Support for Windows XP RTM and SP1/1A has already ended.
- Support for Windows XP SP2 will end on 13 July 2010.
- Although no official announcement has been made by Microsoft, it seems unlikely that there will be a fourth service pack for Windows XP. On that basic, mainstream support for Windows XP SP3 will end on 14 April 2009 and extended support (i.e. security patches only) will be available until 8 April 2014.
Some of my recent customers are just starting rollouts based on Windows XP SP2. By the time they have completed their rollouts, XP will be on extended support. And if they don’t move to SP3 soon, then they will be unsupported. In most cases the reason they are not considering Vista is application compatibility – in which case they should really be looking at application upgrades, or possibly using desktop/application/presentation virtualisation technologies – but why does a move to Vista have to be wholesale? A co-existence strategy involving managed diversity on the desktop is the way forward for many organisations.
So, I’ll finish up by repeating what I said at the head of this post:
“For the majority of Microsoft’s enterprise customers, there are very few reasons why Windows XP should be deployed on new PCs in preference to Windows Vista.”