Microsoft Execs Push Windows XP Upgrades At WPC

But so far, Microsoft executives at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles have offered few additional details about Windows 8. The focus instead has been on hammering home the message of the need for partners to upgrade the millions of PCs that run the aging Windows XP to Windows 7.

"Two-thirds of business PCs, two-thirds, are still on Windows XP," said Tami Reller, corporate vice president of Windows and Windows Live, addressing the 12,000 WPC attendees in a keynote speech. "Together, we must help our customers migrate more than 300 million desktops to a modern experience."

More than 400 million copies of Windows 7 have been sold to businesses and consumers in the 20 months since the operating system began shipping, Reller said. That's a pace three-times the sales growth of Windows XP after it debuted, Reller said, and she cited such customers as General Motors, Dow and the San Diego Unified School District as customers that have upgraded to Windows 7 – most with help from partners.

"The Windows 7 ROI [return on investment] has been tangible and immediate for our customers," she said.

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Microsoft calculates that over the next few years customers will purchase upwards of $40 billion in services from solution providers as part of the Windows XP-to-Windows 7 migration, Reller said.

But while some partners had expected to hear more about Windows 8, which is now in early development and expected to ship some time next year, Reller provided few new details.

Last month at conferences in California and Taiwan Microsoft offered previews of Windows 8's user interface and its early technical capabilities. The software is being designed to support both traditional desktop computers and their keyboard/mouse interface, and tablet or "slate" computers that use a touch interface.

"Windows really does represent a true re-imagining, a true re-imagining, of Windows PCs and the dawning of Windows slates," Ballmer said in his keynote preceding Reller.

"We're still pretty early in the development cycle," Reller said, showing a demonstration video of the Windows 8 user interface from one of last month's conferences. She added a pitch for the company's upcoming Build developer conference in September in Anaheim, Calif., where Microsoft is expected to divulge more details about Windows 8.

One point Reller did make is that Windows 8's hardware requirements will be "flat or reduced" compared to those for Windows 7. "So whether you're upgrading an existing PC or buying a new one, Windows will adapt to make the most of that hardware," she said.

Hardware incompatibility problems plagued Windows Vista when it first came out in 2006 and is widely seen as one of the reasons the product failed.

"Windows 8 is an upgrade for an entire ecosystem of PCs," Reller said. But the executive made it clear Microsoft doesn't expect Windows XP users to wait and skip right to Windows 8. "The path to Windows 8 starts with Windows 7," she said.