MIAMI--As I predicted last week, Microsoft has decided to extend the life of Windows XP, although only for a limited class of machines.
Microsoft said on Thursday that it will continue to allow Windows XP Home edition to be sold for a class of computers it calls "ultra-low-cost PCs." It's a category that covers machines with slower processors, smaller screens, and in many cases flash memory for storage, rather than a traditional hard drive.
Microsoft will give PC makers the option of using Windows XP or Vista on ULCPC devices, said Michael Dix, general manager of Windows client marketing.
Still, the minimal hardware used in ULCPC systems might make Vista ill-suited to such a task. The decision to discontinue Windows XP might have driven even more device makers into the hands of Linux, hence the extension.
Overall, big-name computer makers are still scheduled to have to stop selling Windows XP for all other uses by the end of June. Mainstream technical support will continue to be available for Windows XP through April 2009, and more limited support will continue through April 2014.
Dix said that Microsoft is confident that it can discontinue Windows XP at the end of June for mainstream PCs. "We have received affirming feedback from partners that they are ready to make the transition," he said.
Computer makers will be able to sell XP Home on new ULCPC machines through June 30, 2010, or one year after the launch of Windows 7, the next major release of Windows, whichever is later, Microsoft said.A Microsoft representative on Thursday reaffirmed that the company expects to ship the successor to Vista roughly three years from Vista's January 2007 debut.
Microsoft is also publishing a set of guidelines Thursday designed to make it easier for makers of flash-based computers to use Windows. Many of these initial devices have launched running Linux, though some, such as the Eee PC from Asus, are also being offered in Windows versions.
Microsoft has already extended the Windows XP sales deadline once. In September, it said that computer makers would be able to sell Windows XP until June, rather than the original January 2008 deadline.
At the time, Microsoft also announced that computer makers in emerging markets could sell Windows XP Starter edition until June 2010.
For Microsoft, Wednesday's announcement is an acknowledgment of two things. First, that Starter Edition alone does not fulfill all of the emerging market demand, and second, that developed markets are also showing interest in low-power, low-cost laptops.
News.com's Mike Ricciuti contributed to this report.