Bowing to continued demand, Microsoft has again extended the life of Windows XP.
Although the largest PC makers can't sell XP anymore (except for ultra-low-cost machines), they can sell Vista Ultimate and Vista Business machines with XP discs in the box, or even Vista machines that are "factory downgraded" to Windows XP.
That option was supposed to go away early next year, as Microsoft was going to stop supplying Windows XP media after January 31. However, the company now says it will offer the discs through July 31, giving the option a six-month extension. (Update: PC makers will also be able to sell the factory downgraded machines online as well.)
In a statement provided to CNET News, Microsoft tried to put the best face on the move.
"As more customers make the move to Windows Vista, we want to make sure that they are making that transition with confidence and that it is as smooth as possible," Microsoft said. "Providing downgrade media for a few more months is part of that commitment, as is the Windows Vista Small Business Assurance program, which provides one-on-one, customized support for our small-business customers."
CEO Steve Ballmer said on Thursday in France that 180 million copies of Vista have been sold, but he noted that businesses continue to move at their own pace. When asked about whether companies should move to Vista or wait for Windows 7, even Ballmer said it depends on the business.
"So, my point isn't to encourage you to do it immediately; of course, we'd love you to do it immediately," Ballmer said. "My real advice is to do it in the natural rhythm of your PC upgrade cycle...Most of you will not upgrade the software on existing hardware. Some will. Most of you will actually choose to buy new machines when you move forward, and so we should work with you in that context."
The less major computer makers, known as system builders in Microsoft parlance, are still able to sell XP machines without having to do the Vista downgrade thing. That option is set to end Jan. 31 and Microsoft says that date isn't being extended.
Microsoft stopped selling Windows XP on June 30, though it continues to be available as retail supplies last. It has been a top seller on Amazon for some time, and several versions of XP are still among the retailer's top 25 best-selling software titles.
The six-month extension for XP discs was noted earlier by The Register, a tech news site.