“Microsoft could keep XP if customers want it”

Link: Microsoft could keep XP if customers want it: CEO

Setting aside the absurdity of the headline (last time I checked pretty much every company is in business to sell customers stuff they actually want), this would seem to be the strongest indication yet that Vista is becoming an evolutionary dead end, and that Microsoft will take another crack at this with the release of Windows 7. I don’t feel, as Gartner analysts recently stated, that “Windows is Collapsing” — after all, the Roman Empire took hundreds of years to collapse after it became moribund. But it’s clear to me that the part of the Windows franchise known as Vista is already finished.

If Windows 7 appears in 2009, as Bill Gates suggested, the OS franchise might be preserved and Microsoft might be able to end-of-life XP. But does anybody really expect that Microsoft will be able to deliver a new version of the operating system within a year? Didn’t think so. Microsoft will have to extend support for XP until Windows 7 is in its first service pack, probably in 2010 or later. (The operating system should be stable enough to plug into a space probe in time to send Roy Scheider to Jupiter.)

Back when Vista was first released, I was talking to a guy who worked in corporate strategy for one of the companies I’d done some work for. He said that they were projecting that 2009 would be the year when Vista would reach its tipping point, when more than 50% of IT managers would be either evaluating or deploying it. I told him that it would be 2009 before most IT managers would even start evaluating Vista. And now it seems that even that estimate was conservative — if Windows 7 goes into beta next year and it sucks even a little bit less than Vista, IT evaluations of Vista will be a waste of time and most corporate IT managers will just skip it.

Our home/office LAN, which at one point boasted as many as six Windows desktop and server machines, is now down to one dedicated Windows machine. (This machine runs Windows XP and will never not run Windows XP.) These days, that machine is used almost exclusively for gaming and media storage. Our laptops are all Macs now, and I’ve switched to an iMac (the best desktop machine I’ve ever owned) as my daily work machine in the home office. When I need to use Windows, it’s Windows Server 2003 running in a virtual machine on the Mac. I’m sure that our situation isn’t typical, but as a guy who built his career on Microsoft technology and is now spending the majority of his time on Linux and the Mac, it’s safe to say that I’m a bellwether at least.