Windows XP Retirement a 'Non-Issue' for Corporate Customers

In a week's time, Windows XP will no longer be available in most retail outlets, but corporate users need not fret because they can still get the Microsoft operating system and, until 2014, the security patches to fix any vulnerabilities.

June 30 is the date Microsoft has set for when retailers can no longer order shrink-wrapped boxes of XP for their store shelves. Once current inventory is gone, so is XP except on ultra-low-cost PCs, where it can be had likely until about 2011, depending on the availability of Windows 7, and on white-box systems assembled from off-the-shelf parts until Jan. 31, 2009.
But for most consumers, June 30 means (near) cold turkey on buying XP and hello Vista.

Corporate users, however, are a different story.

Companies with an affinity for XP Professional will find the operating system available for the time being by using "downgrade rights" when buying PCs preloaded with Vista Business or Ultimate. It also remains available to those with volume licensing contracts.

The downgrade offer also is available to consumers who buy machines with Vista Business or Ultimate before Jan. 31, 2009. The option is being offered by some companies, including Dell, HP, Lenovo, NEC and Sony.

Downgrade rights allow users to install XP in favor of the Vista version that shipped with a particular PC.

But all the XP permutations are really moot for corporate users, who typically buy business or enterprise versions of the operating system.

"For the enterprise, I think this is a non-issue simply because enterprises buy pro-grade products that come with downgrade rights," says Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC. "And the reality is that most enterprises have a standard [operating system] image they place on every PC that comes in the door. They blow away the installed OS and put down their own image."

And for companies that want XP, that's what they can install.

"Whether the machine comes with Vista [Business or Ultimate] or XP that will not matter," says Gillen.

But if June 30 is the XP milestone for retail and consumer, what is the XP milestone for corporate users?

"There is a milestone out there, but it is so far in the future it is not something users are going to get alarmed about today," says Gillen.

Microsoft plans to offer Mainstream Support for XP, which first shipped on Dec. 31, 2001, until April 14, 2009.

Mainstream Support includes such options as no-charge incident support, paid incident support, support charged on an hourly basis, support for warranty claims and hot-fix support.

Microsoft will follow with Extended Support until April 8, 2014. The Extended phase includes support charged on an hourly basis and paid hot-fix support via a contract that must be purchased within 90 days of the end of Mainstream Support.

"It is a mature product, the code base is stable and it is unlikely new issues with come up with XP unless they are security related and Microsoft will continue to do the security fixes," says Gillen. On top of that, Gillen says, since XP is a mature product companies already know how to support it.

"They have been doing it for six or seven years already."

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