Practical Technology

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XP lives… for a price


Can we cut the crap? No one wants Vista, and stubborn Windows users have demanded XP. While neither Microsoft nor its partners will admit it, Microsoft has abandoned its attempt to kill off XP.

Last June, Microsoft announced that it would no longer be selling XP. Even then. Microsoft had started backing away from its flat statement that XP was history.

First, the rise of netbooks, which all were using desktop Linux, frightened Microsoft into offering XP Home to netbook vendors. It was already too late. Desktop Linux now runs on about three out of ten netbooks. It’s no wonder that Windows has, at long last, dropped below 90% of desktop market share.

Next, Microsoft decided that it would still allow some low-end desktops to run XP Home. This move seems to have amounted to little. I haven’t seen any cheap desktop systems with XP Home. Instead, Vista Basic, the Vista that even Vista fans can’t stand, is what I’ve found on bottom-end desktops.

Businesses, though, can’t use XP Home. It won’t work with corporate networks using AD (Active Directory) or domains. CIOs and CTOs, unless they’re willing to give desktop Linux or the Mac a try, must use XP Pro.

The good news for companies that won’t give up on Windows is that Microsoft quietly decided to let users buy ‘downgraded’ XP Pro from computer manufacturers through July 2009. The bad news is that it’s going to cost you.

Dell is now charging an extra $150 to use XP Pro. For the price of two XP Pro licenses, you can buy a business-network-ready netbook.

I get why people want XP Pro. It’s easily my favorite member of the Windows family. With Vista SP2 looking like a non-starter, and Windows 7 looking more and more like warmed-over Vista, I think that no matter what Microsoft may say, XP is going to be around for a long time to come.

Still, as I look ahead, I wish more people would give desktop Linux and the Mac a try. At an additional $150 a crack for XP and an economy heading for the dumpster, desktop Linux is more than ever the affordable choice. And Macs, which have always been the high-priced luxury line of computing, are beginning to look a lot more reasonable.

A version of this story first appeared in ComputerWorld.

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