Dell to factory-install Windows XP after June 30

Side-steps OEM retirement date by 'downgrading' from Vista at the factory

Dell did not specify which systems it would sell with XP preinstalled after June 18, or how long it would tender the downgrade offer. Microsoft's statement that OEMs can install XP "as long as they have stock on hand" could be interpreted to mean that it will allow Dell and others to continue the practice after the January 31, 2009 retirement date for system builders.

Microsoft has set several deadlines for Windows XP. June 30 is the last possible sales date for large computer makers -- obviously excluding the downgrade route -- and at retail; on January 31, 2009, Microsoft will bar system builders, which are usually smaller shops and individuals, from adding Windows XP to machines they assemble.

Earlier this month Microsoft extended XP's availability until June 2010 for what it has dubbed "ultra-low cost PCs," light and inexpensive sub-notebooks such as the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO and the Asustek Eee PC.

The Round Rock, US-based computer maker is not the only OEM that has said it will provide customers with the older operating system after Microsoft's deadline. Lenovo, the Chinese company known for the ThinkPad line of laptops, will sell XP media for downgrading through January 31, 2009, according to its Web site.

"Lenovo customers that have Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate 'qualified systems' may purchase a Windows XP Recovery CD until January 31, 2009," the notice read.

Although Microsoft today again said that it will stop providing Windows XP to OEM partners and at retail after June 30, CEO Steve Ballmer seemed to leave the door ajar.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

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