It’s the end of an era: as of October 22, Microsoft is no longer allowing PC makers to legally pre-install its venerable WIndows XP operating system on new computers. Although most major computer makers topped shipping PCs with Windows XP pre-installed some time ago—Dell was one of the last hold-outs, cutting off XP installations back in September—the change is a significant one for change-averse companies and organizations who need to upgrade or replace hardware, but either can’t or won’t move on from Windows XP, perhaps because of software or hardware they can’t get to run on more-recent operating systems.
Microsoft terminated mainstream support for WIndows XP back in early 2009; however, the company will be offering “extended” support for the operating system all the way to 2014. That means Microsoft will continue to offer free security fixes, and customers will be able to pay Microsoft for support.
However, for folks who are stuck using Windows XP, all hope is not yet lost: PC buyers can purchase “downgrade rights” if they get a PC with Windows 7 Professional, and OEMs can pre-install the downgraded operating system. Those systems then come with licenses for both Windows XP and Windows 7 Professional—and customers pay for both. However, according to Microsoft, “downgrade facilitation”—where computer makers install Windows XP for customers as part of the downgrade process—will only be available until Microsoft delivers Windows 7 Service Pack 1, currently scheduled for the first half of 2011.