Microsoft Partners Applaud XP 'Reprieve'

As reported last week by ChannelWeb, Microsoft has instituted a flexible inventory program in which distributors can place their final orders for Windows XP licenses by Jan. 31, 2009, and then be able to take delivery of -- and pay for -- those licenses until May 30.

Distributors love the program because it lets them avoid sitting on a mountain of XP inventory for months, which is the scenario many envisioned would unfold after the Jan. 31 deadline for system builders to sell PCs with XP pre-installed.

The deadline for large PC makers was June 30, 2008, but they've continued offering XP to customers through the downgrade rights Microsoft offers with Vista Business and Vista Ultimate.

Glen Coffield, president of system builder Smart Guys Computers, says the fact that Microsoft has pushed back the XP deadline on several occasions shows that the market's resistance to Vista remains strong, and that many organizations have decided to wait for Windows 7 to arrive.

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Coffield sees the latest XP reprieve as recognition on Microsoft's part that organizations would find creative -- and possibly illegal -- ways of obtaining Windows XP if Microsoft abruptly cut off sales through the channel.

"I don't think Microsoft has any choice but to extend XP," Coffield said. "By doing so, they're essentially saving themselves from a resurgence of XP piracy."

Tyler Dikman, president and CEO of solution provider Cooltronics, expects Microsoft to prolong the XP deadline until it releases Windows 7, which is currently slated for late 2009 or early 2010.

"This would be a really smart move on Microsoft's part," Dikman said. "If people want to buy XP, it makes sense to keep selling it to them, especially when they're paying the same price as Windows Vista."

Microsoft, of course, has been trying to steer users to Vista for the past two years, using a variety of tactics to show the market that Vista's early troubles have been worked out, and that current negative perceptions of Vista are unfounded.

Some Microsoft partners agree with this premise and feel the whole XP issue has been way overblown.

Chris Vilim, president of Core Technologies, expects Microsoft to keep XP around until Windows 7 arrives, but notes that his Vista sales have been steadily growing over the course of the year, and that customers have had very few problems with Vista.

"I'm still not certain that the Vista backlash has been totally warranted," Vilim said.