After a long-announced transition, June 30 marks the end of an era at Microsoft. Well, really it's the end of two eras.
Most people think of Bill Gates, of course, and I'll have plenty more to say about his impending shift to part-time work in the coming days. But another epoch is also really coming to an end--that of Windows XP.
As of June 30, large PC makers will no longer be able to sell Windows XP-based PCs, at least on mainstream notebooks and desktops. Retailers will also have only until their current supply is exhausted to sell boxed copies of the operating system.
Despite a brief "Save XP" movement (and continued criticism of Windows Vista from many corners), it appears that Microsoft is not going to change the deadline, which is now just two weeks away.
Although XP will disappear as an option for most computer buyers, the operating system will live on in several key ways.
XP will be available on PCs from smaller computer makers known as "system builders" until January 31, 2009.
XP will be available for so-called ultra-low-cost-PCs until June 30, 2010.
The low-end Windows XP Starter Edition will continue to be available in emerging markets until June 30, 2010.
Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows Vista Business come with downgrade rights. Some computer makers are using this option to offer machines that appear as Windows XP products but are "factory downgraded" to XP. The downside is that only pricier versions of Vista qualify, but the benefit is that the machines come with the option to eventually move to Vista for no added fee. Microsoft says it will continue to make XP discs available to computer makers to enable downgrade rights through at least January 31, 2009.
Microsoft is not ending support for Windows XP. Mainstream support continues until 2009, while extended support is not due to end until April 2014.
For those who want to get their PC the old-fashioned (and soon to be obsolete) way, you only have a few days left. Here is what some of the big name players had to say about their plans.
Hewlett-Packard: "All of HP's latest consumer and business computing products currently ship with Windows Vista. But we do still offer XP on a select number of our existing consumer notebook, gaming, and business products. This will continue through the XP end-of-life date on June 30, 2008.
"HP has been offering business desktops, notebooks, and workstations with the option to downgrade to Windows XP Pro from Vista since August 2007, and will continue to offer this option on its business systems through at least July 30, 2009. These systems are pre-installed with XP Pro, and the customer receives the Vista license so that they can upgrade to the new OS when they are ready, as well as restore discs for both operating systems. After June 30, if a customer already has the XP image and license, HP also can also install that customer's image on their Vista Business systems through our HP PC Customization Services."
Lenovo: "In line with our agreement with Microsoft, Lenovo will not offer any PC's preloaded with XP after June 30, 2008. Lenovo offers select Vista models that ship with a downgrade XP CD in the box. Microsoft will allow us to continue putting these downgrade CDs in the box until January 31, 2009. However, the majority of PCs we ship don't have the downgrade CD in the box. If a customer purchases a Vista system and wishes to downgrade and doesn't have the CD, they can contact our Help Center to get an XP downgrade CD."
Acer: An Acer representative said that the company plans to stop selling XP June 30. "Acer will offer CD downgrades to XP--based on customers order requests--until the Microsoft deadline, January 31, 2009."
Dell: Unlike the other three, Dell plans to stop selling standard XP machines via its Web site on Wednesday. "Dell systems with XP as the only OS will no longer be available after June 18 on Dell.com," the company said. It will offer a downgrade program for a number of its machines, including all OptiPlex desktops, all Latitude laptops, all Precision workstations and most of its Vostro systems for mid-size businesses. Two consumer gaming systems--the XPS 630 and the XPS M1730--are already eligible for the program with a third, the XPS 730, to be added soon.
The downgraded machines will ship with XP installed, plus an XP restore disc with drivers as well as a copy of Vista and its Vista drivers. It said it will keep shipping XP media until the Microsoft mandated end date of January 31, 2009.
News.com's Erica Ogg contributed to this report.