The end is near -- again

Well, here we go again. And this time it looks final. Every integrator, VAR, reseller, dealer, or whatever you're calling yourself this week, needs to know this. Microsoft discontinues the sales of Windows XP effective Mon., June 30. That means there's only two weeks left.

What it means, according to Microsoft is this: "On June 30, 2008, Microsoft will stop distributing Windows XP as a stand-alone product that can be bought shrink-wrapped in retail stores. We'll also stop sending it to Dell, HP, Lenovo, and all the other major PC manufacturers to sell on their PCs." White box PC makers get a reprieve until January 2009.

In a six-page communiqué to its channel partners, we're told that Vista was really awful when it came out, and that the improvements culminating with the release of SP1 now make it time to put XP to sleep. To paraphrase the 1960's rock group the Byrds, Vista was so much older then, it's younger than that now.

Among the improvements Microsoft cites:

-- It now supports 77,000 hardware products, double the number at launch. More than 90 percent of devices should work simply by plugging them in, no installation disk required.

-- Of the top 100 consumer software programs, 97 work just fine, including iTunes, Quickbooks, and Photoshop.

-- More than 2,700 business apps are now certified for Vista, including those from Adobe, Autodesk, CA, ClickCommerce, IBM, Oracle, SAP, SAS, Symantec, Trend Micro, and more.

-- SP1 boosts performance and closes security loopholes. (Odd, considering how Microsoft flew editors out to Redmond, including me, to explain that Vista was bullet-proof and as close as impenetrable as one could be.)

But questions linger. The communiqué states that "Windows Vista with SP1 [performs] comparably to Windows XP SP2." My interpretation of that is that Vista is slower. And so it is.

Here's how Microsoft explains it: "Why doesn't [Vista] win? Simple. Behind the scenes, Windows Vista is doing a lot more on the user's behalf than Windows XP does. It's indexing files so users can find them fast, keeping the hard drive organized, saving work so nothing gets lost, and defending the computer against hackers and phishers."

So, what do I take away from the previous quotation? Easy. To quote one Mr. Brody from the movie Jaws, "You're gonna need a bigger boat." In other words, I'd never upgrade an existing PC to Vista. To run it properly, you'll need a new PC, one with a considerably faster processor supported by a whole lot of RAM. And a bigger hard drive, too. Those 80GB and 120GB drives of yesteryear just won't cut it. So go out and sell, sell, sell.

As for support, it works like this. Microsoft will support Windows XP under its mainstream support policy until April 14, 2009, and under its extended (fee-based) support policy until April 8, 2014. But everyone gets free security updates until the latter date.

There's still one last escape clause. For businesses that rely on Windows XP, they can buy Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate, and still have the right to move back to Windows XP Professional via the infamous "downgrade rights."

Finally, the communiqué states that "Every 10 PCs that switch to Windows Vista is the equivalent of taking an automobile off the road, in terms of greenhouse gases." I don't quite get that, but I do know this: I would not want to drive a car that runs on Windows. Would you?

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