With Windows XP but four days away from the June 30 end-of-sales date, various scenarios are depicting the operating system as already dead. But XP is far from being expired, and this is why Microsoft has not been shy about talking about the future of Windows Vista's successor, as irreverent as this might seem. But just because customers will no longer be able to buy standalone copies of the operating system, either shrink-wrapped or pre-loaded on new OEM machines does not mean that XP is done and over with. End users should be prepared to have XP around for many more years, well after the release of Windows 7.
"With the June 30, 2008, 'end of sales' date for Windows XP approaching, many people have asked me if they will still be able to get support for Windows XP. The answer is an emphatic 'yes, you will continue to be supported.' We recently released Service Pack 3 for Windows XP and we will continue to provide security updates and other critical updates for Windows XP until April, 2014," explained Bill Veghte, Microsoft Senior Vice President.
According to data made available by Net Applications, XP has the lion's share of the operating system market with 72.12%. This while Vista has only grown to 15.26% at the end of May. Vista in itself, and this is also valid for Windows 7, will not be able to dislodge XP by simply being available. Especially since XP will be sold even after the end of the month.
"For businesses small to large, buying Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate provides the option to use Windows XP Professional through a customer benefit known as 'downgrade rights.' Downgrade rights are also available to all business customers that license Windows, such as Windows Vista Enterprise, through our Microsoft Volume Licensing programs. In addition, some of our OEM partners are planning to offer services designed to help business customers that buy these versions of Windows Vista on new PCs to exercise their downgrade rights," Veghte added.
SP3 is without a doubt the last service pack that Microsoft will ever release for Windows XP. With SP3, XP was essentially made to play well with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, but the real problems will start to show after the launch of Windows 7 and Windows 7 Server. While it is committed to not abandoning XP, Microsoft will simply let it slip into the background, especially as Windows 7 will move to center stage.
"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. 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," Veghte said.
With almost six more years of support from Microsoft available, there is a future yet for XP SP3. Only in 2014 will the actual death of the operating system released in 2001 will become reality. But by that time, XP SP3 will probably be nothing more than an anodyne detail, getting a lot less of the world's focus than today.
Windows XP Service Pack 3 stand-alone version is available for download here.