A story that is making its way through the net last weekend is that Dell is still going to install XP on new machines well past Microsoft’s deadline for killing the majority of XP’s versions.
The news that XP is still being shipped is not surprising considering the fact that Vista take up is below what I had expected a year after launching. However, I still have difficulty seeing it as proof that Vista is a failure, since I know from experience, no technical manager will touch Windows family of operating system until it is at least it is at least one year in a wild. (In practice, it is two years, with some skipping one version if Microsoft can make good of its promise to deliver new OS every three years or so.)
What was not clear to me was how Dell can do it legally, until BBC outlined how this is done. It appears that it is using a standard practice in the industry that allow purchaser to buy a license then “downgrade” it to earlier version. This is mainly a practical workaround the fact that you cannot buy license for earlier versions. It is usually practice in places where the shopfloor need to buy a new computer and with it, a new license for the software, but would not use the latest versions because they had standardize the software on the older version.
Two things that is unusual here. First and foremost, Dell will give you a copy of Windows XP CD and second, it install it for you. Normally, it is you who have to do the two yourself. Both are “innovations” in its own right. It also says that XP is still have strong demand as Dell deem it not only worthwhile to do so, but to go the extra mile and push the envelope of “downgrading” practice.
What I find disturbing is the fact that nobody explain to the consumers what buying XP actually means post Microsoft deadline means. It means you cannot expect the normal level of support you normally expect with Windows, i.e. 3 years active support with at least 5 years of security patches. Your mileage on the first part is dropping from the deadline day by day. It is only a theoritical problem since most people’s computer would had died in 3 years. No active support for last two years of life? Who cares! Still, you should know the bargain you had striked by downgrading.
BBC touch on the fact that this practice will allow Microsoft to chalk up XP sales as Vista sales. Initially, I thought this means Microsoft can bask in artificially inflated Vista sales figure. However, the more I think about it, I don’t think this is what Microsoft is aiming for. First, chalking up version N-1 sales as version N sales this way is standard practice in industry. Second, it is a problem particular to Microsoft where its sales figures will be heavily scrutinized and punters remineded of this fact. The later is particularly an irritant for Microsoft. As much as the PR department like to “confuse” the sales figure for the two, the business department will be well aware of this. They, like commentators, will be busy tracking the demise of XP. The only difference is they will do it silently. If anything, Microsoft has demonstrated time and time again that its business department is probably the one of the most astute one. Therefore, they will not let XP “demise” statistics slip their finger.