Microsoft denies XP a last-minute reprieve, will support until 2014

The company has re-asserted that it will stop shipping and licensing Windows XP on June 30

Microsoft Monday laid to rest rumours that it might reconsider pulling Windows XP from retail shelves and most PC makers next Monday.

In a letter to customers, Bill Veghte, the senior vice president who leads the company's online and Windows business groups, reiterated June 30 as the deadline when Microsoft halts shipments of boxed copies to retailers and stops licensing the OS directly to major computer manufacturers, called OEMs (for original equipment manufacturers).

However, Veghte did leave the door open to all computer makers, even the largest, who want to continue selling new PCs with XP preinstalled. "Additionally, Systems Builders (sometimes referred to as 'local OEMs'), may continue to purchase Windows XP through Authorized Distributors through January 31, 2009," he wrote in the letter, repeating existing policy that lets small-sized computer builders obtain XP from dealers like Ingram Micro.

"All OEMs, including major OEMs, have this option," said Veghte.

Most major PC makers, however, have effectively called a halt to general XP-equipped system sales, although late last week Dell extended its XP order-by deadline to June 26, this Thursday.

Many OEMs, including Dell and Hewlett-Packard, will continue to offer the older operating system as a "downgrade" option from Windows Vista. Veghte touted that approach himself. "This is a great value because it lets you use Windows XP on new PCs today if you need it and then make the move to ... Windows Vista when you are ready, without having to pay for an upgrade," he said in the letter.

Elsewhere Microsoft re-emphasized that although XP will be tougher to buy after next Monday, it will not disappear overnight. In a new FAQ on its Web site, it said, as it has elsewhere, that retailers and computer makers were allowed to sell out their stocks. "You may still see copies of the software -- or computers pre-loaded with it -- for months, as stores and PC makers work through their inventory," said the FAQ.

And Veghte reminded users that Microsoft will support Windows XP for several more years. According to previously-scheduled timetables, XP continues in "mainstream support" until April 14, 2009, and won't be dropped from "extended support" until after April 8, 2014.

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Gregg Keizer

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