The future is bleak without XP

In just under two weeks, Microsoft will discontinue Windows XP and make way for a new era in the world of operating systems. The days of Start bars will give way to wonky buttons and a refreshed design, stable operation will give way to frequent crashing, and XP will die at the hands of a misguided killer: Microsoft.

As much as Microsoft wants to make you believe that Vista isn't so bad and it's really the next logical successor to Windows XP, it's not. Vista is a bloated mess of code that features a ridiculous number of security prompts thanks to an overzealous User Access Control, frequent crashes due to its inherent instability, and a generally poor design thanks to Microsoft's insistence on making its operating system look like Mac OS X.

And to make matters worse, the operating system that everyone thought would be more secure than XP has proven to be just as bad. In fact, I would venture to say that now that XP is running Service Pack 3, it's even more secure than Vista.

Nice one, Microsoft.

But perhaps it's Service Pack 3 that makes my opinion so strong. If Microsoft never released it for Windows XP, Vista would have some attributes that may have made it more attractive after the June 30 deadline. But by adding Vista's enhanced security features to a product that works with every piece of hardware and software on the market, Service Pack 3 has solidified XP's viability and has quickly become a better choice at a much lower price.

But don't take my word for it. In the past few months alone, Dell, Lenovo, and others have come out in support of XP and last month, both Dell and Lenovo said that they would downgrade Windows Vista Business or Ultimate to XP Professional even after the June 30 deadline if customers asked for it.

If computer manufacturers are coming out in protest of Windows Vista, shouldn't that be enough for us to realize that it's probably not the best idea to discontinue XP? I certainly think so.

And to make matters worse, Microsoft is already starting its engines on Windows 7. Just a few weeks ago, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer told those in attendance at the D Conference that Windows 7 would support hand gestures and they went so far as to say that the keyboard and mouse might be things of the past.

But if the two leaders of Microsoft are spending that much time waxing poetic about Vista's follow-up, what does that say about Vista itself? Wouldn't the company want to tell the world about the benefits of owning its latest OS and not undermine it by talking about its successor?

Microsoft is in a difficult position. Not only is it forced to deal with three operating systems at one time, but it needs to find a healthy balance between making its customers happy and turning a profit. And while I understand that it spent loads of cash on Vista, sometimes it's better to cut your losses before they get out of hand.

If Microsoft is smart, it'll keep XP running all the way to Windows 7 and cut its losses on Vista. It's an operating system that has been met with considerable distaste on the part of consumers and vendors alike, and the company shouldn't want to be associated with such a crappy product.

Of course, it'll never abandon Vista and chances are, it'll discontinue XP and let us wallow in our pain. If it does though, look for a mass exodus to the outstretched arms of Steve Jobs.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

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