Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Windows XP will be sold to some OEMs after all, says Microsoft

BetaNews has confirmed that, although most of Microsoft's shipments of Windows XP did end on June 30 as scheduled, it is still making XP available to both makers of low-end Netbooks and 'systems builders,' large and small.

Monday of this week didn't exactly spell the end of Windows XP, after all. In line with its "end of life" plans, Microsoft did stop selling XP to OEMs and retailers on Monday -- but with some notable "exceptions" which Microsoft acknowledged to BetaNews Tuesday evening.

As of late Tuesday, although some supplies were starting to dwindle, plenty of XP was still for sale across the Web and in stores.

Where is all of this XP coming from, anyway? "[Monday] was the deadline for Microsoft to stop selling XP to retailers and OEMs, other than a few exceptions," a Microsoft spokesperson said, in an e-mail to BetaNews last night.

As exceptions to the general 'end of life' rule, the spokesperson mentioned both makers of low-end Netbooks and so-called "systems builders." Also in the exceptions category, he included shipment by Microsoft of "downgrade rights media."

For elaboration, the spokesperson pointed to a letter addressed to Microsoft customers by Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Services & Windows Business Group.

"It's true that [on June 30] 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," Veghte wrote in his letter, which was supplied to BetaNews by Microsoft.

"For customers interested in buying a low-end personal computer (often referred to as a 'NetBook' or 'NetTop'), we are making Windows XP Home and Windows XP Starter available for use on these budget systems," according to Veghte. "Additionally, System Builders (sometimes referred to as 'local OEMs') may continue to purchase Windows XP through Authorized Distributors through January 31, 2009. All OEMs, including major OEMs, have this option."

In his e-mail to BetaNews last night, the Microsoft spokesperson also said that, even outside of the 'exceptions,' retailers and OEMs will still be able to sell "whatever [XP] stock they have on hand" as long as it lasts.

"They just can't purchase more from Microsoft other than for the exceptions noted," BetaNews was told.

In any event, a quick check by BetaNews on Tuesday afternoon had turned up nearly 3,000 Windows XP listings on eBay alone -- although by Tuesday night, that number had dropped to around 2,500.

Other Web venues with XP in stock on Tuesday -- generally still at customary XP pricing, but sometimes on sale -- ranged from to Cheap Discount Software for You (cdsfu).

A lot of the XP available on the Web consisted of Home Edition. However, and many others continued to sell the retail version of Professional Edition.

Best Buy's Web site was already sold out of the retail version of Professional Edition. But a blurb posted on the site said the product remained available in most Best Buy retail stores.

E-tailers such as Royal Discount and Vio Software had the OEM version of XP Professional in stock for sale over the Web. So, too, did CompUSA's Web site, together with OEM versions of Vista Home, Professional, Media Center, Premium, and Ultimate editions.

Customarily available to system builders as well as individual users, OEM versions of Windows cost less than regular versions but also levy more restrictive licensing terms. An OEM version can't be copied from one PC to another, and responsibility for OS support is transferred from Microsoft to the system builder or user.

Meanwhile, earlier in June, Dell -- which certainly qualifies as a "major OEM" -- had pledged to keep selling PCs running XP until at least 2009.

Then, on June 30, Dell leveraged its channel blog to tell systems integrators and other resellers about the loophole in the Vista license that lets business customers "downgrade" from Vista to XP.

"The short version is that Dell can sell what we've branded 'Windows Vista Bonus,' which allows us to pre-install XP Professional with a Vista license (on select system categories). This lets customers upgrade to the Vista platform when they've ready. And yes, Dell will support both OSs," according to the blog.

Even after XP's "end of life," Dell is also continuing to offer XP as an image to resellers who use Dell's Custom Factory Integration (CFI) service.

  • Microsoft woos hobbyist developers
  • Windows XP SP3 official release delayed, but download still available
  • Microsoft re-issues one security fix for a Bluetooth hole