No change in XP plan despite Ballmer comment, Microsoft says

Comments led to speculation that Microsoft is reconsidering its June 30 deadline to stop selling most new Windows XP licenses

Comments by Steve Ballmer at a press conference in Europe last week led to speculation that Microsoft is reconsidering its June 30 deadline to stop selling most new Windows XP licenses. A spokeswoman from Microsoft's public relations firm said there is no change to the current plan, however.

"Our plan for Windows XP availability is unchanged. We're confident that's the right thing to do based on the feedback we've heard from our customers and partners," the spokeswoman said, reading from a Microsoft statement.

Ballmer's comments at a press conference at Louvain-la-Neuve University in Belgium led to a flurry of reports that Microsoft may be considering an extension of its deadline.

"If customer feedback varies we can always wake up smarter, but right now we have a plan for end-of-life for new XP shipments," Ballmer said, according to Reuters. Microsoft did not have a transcript of the event, but the spokeswoman from Waggener Edstrom said the report seemed accurate.

The spokeswoman said Microsoft is aware that some customers are pushing for an extension to the deadline -- more than 160,000 people have signed a "Save XP" petition launched by Infoworld magazine, for example. But the company has also done its own research among partners and customers and feels that "the dates are right," she said.

"We feel we've made the right accommodations for customers in certain segments who may need more time to transition to Windows Vista," she said. "But as Steve noted, we maintain a constant stance of listening to our customers and our partners. That's what is guiding our plan, and will continue to guide us going forward."

The "accommodations" refer to several exceptions that Microsoft has made to the June 30 deadline. For example, companies that make volume purchases of Vista Business or Vista Ultimate can ask their vendor to "downgrade" their license to Windows XP. Microsoft has also made exceptions for the emerging class of small, ultra-low-cost PCs, and it will continue to provide Windows XP Starter Edition for PCs sold in emerging markets.

Retailers and PC vendors can also continue to sell any backlog of Windows XP licenses that they bought before the June 30 deadline. Beyond those exceptions, most new Windows licenses purchased after June 30 will be for Windows Vista.

The owner of a PC support center near Boston questioned which users Microsoft had been gathering feedback from.

"I'd love to know exactly what, and how many 'customers' Microsoft claims to be getting this feedback from," David Bookbinder, owner of Total PC Support, said via e-mail. "My guess, and it's an educated one, is that it's more likely stockholder feedback."

Total PC Support provides service to home and small-business users in eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

"I service over 600 clients and have yet to find ONE speak highly of Vista, or wish XP to end," he wrote. "And that goes from the biggest novice on up."

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James Niccolai

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