Microsoft Extends XP Deadline For Low-Cost PCs


The extension looks like an attempt on Microsoft's part to stave off Linux in the emerging market for low cost, small form factor PCs known as ULCPCs, which PC makers are using to reach educational markets and developing nations.

ULCPCs generally have smaller screen sizes and lower-powered processors, and are often used to complement larger, more powerful PCs, says Kevin Kutz, a director in the Windows Client group at Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.

Microsoft's extension of the XP Home deadline reflects the potential of the ULCPC category and the strong market demand for devices that span a variety of smaller form factors, Kutz said.

"As the ULCPC category unfolds, we felt the right move would be to extend the deadline a while longer," said Kutz.

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Kutz said OEMs have the choice of installing XP Home or Vista on the ULCPCs they sell. But given the well-documented hardware requirements of Vista, as well as ongoing technical glitches that continue to plague Vista even after the release of service pack 1, it's unlikely that many will choose this route.

"The lower processing and hardware capabilities of ULCPCs makes Linux more of a viable OS option than Windows on these devices," said Douglas Lee, CFO and director of business development at BostonTech Partners, a Canton, Mass.-based solution provider.

Kutz said Microsoft is maintaining its timeline for other versions of XP and still plans to stop distribution through OEMs on June 30, and through system builders on January 31, 2009.

Microsoft will allow OEMs to preinstall XP Home on ULCPCs until June 30, 2010, or a year after it launches the next version of Windows, whichever comes first. Windows 7, the sucessor to Vista, is slated for release sometime in 2010, according to Microsoft.

Intel's Classmate is perhaps the most well known example of a ULCPC. Originally developed as a for-profit, generic Windows PC for schools in developing countries, the Classmate has been positioned against the One Laptop Per Child initiative's XO-1 device, and competition between the sides two has escalated in recent months.

Microsoft has been accused of interfering in a deal between Mandriva and the Nigerian government that called for Linux to be installed on 17,000 Classmate PCs, allegations that the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant denies.