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Microsoft Puts Limits on XP for Netbooks

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Microsoft informed PC vendors this week that it will no longer provide Windows XP Home for installation on netbooks as of Oct. 22, 2010, the one-year anniversary of Windows 7’s consumer launch.

The notice came in a post on the Windows Team Blog Wednesday by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc.

Windows XP is easily one of the most successful operating systems in history, and even today, nine years after its launch, it holds 62.6 percent market share, according to analysis firm Net Applications. However, XP is nearly a decade old. It’s old, it’s rickety, and it’s expensive to support.

Microsoft officials have gritted their teeth all the way to the bank in recent years because corporate customers often preferred XP over Windows Vista. Customers can still purchase new PCs and “downgrade” them to XP, a company spokesperson confirmed for

Use of XP is falling, however. Since last July, when Windows 7 became available to corporate customers, XP’s market share has fallen by 10 points while Windows 7 use has surged from less than 1 percent to nearly 13 percent share in the same time period.

When the netbook trend hit in 2007, Microsoft was initially caught flat footed by the sudden demand for an operating system to run on a less expensive and less capable PC replacement. The first netbooks shipped with Linux but were not well-received because customers wanted an operating system they knew. Microsoft quickly rallied to present XP in that role. It was a hit and within months virtually all the netbooks on the market were available with XP.

While Microsoft dearly wanted to terminate sales of XP, the company had an even greater desire to make money and maintain market dominance.

Since even before the release of Windows 7, however, Microsoft has waged a fairly successful campaign to age XP out of the netbook market and replace it with Windows 7. Several simple, non-scientific searches on the Web appeared to demonstrate that the majority of netbooks for sale at online retailers come with Windows 7 Starter edition installed instead of XP Home.

“By April 2010, 81 percent of netbook units sold at retail in the U.S. came with Windows 7 pre-installed,” LeBlanc said.

Additionally, LeBlanc used his blog post to remind customers that as of July 13, Microsoft will quit providing support for XP Service Pack 2, (SP2) although there will still be support for XP SP3, which came out in April 2008.

“Support for Windows XP Service Pack 3 will continue through April 2014,” LeBlanc’s post said.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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