The release of Windows Vista is a great achievement, but Microsoft should not lose sight of the fact that many of its customers will be running Windows XP for a while yet.
Although everyone will surely want to upgrade to the latest operating system platform, it is difficult to justify a pretty user interface to a CIO. And while Vista has many significant improvements under the covers, much of the marketing has been about how the new operating system is "clear, confident and connected".
I am not suggesting that organisations stick with Windows XP for an extended period, but it seems likely that most early adopters will be consumers and smaller firms.
Meanwhile, many corporates will receive Vista on new hardware but downgrade to standard desktop environments based on earlier versions of Windows. And, once they do start to upgrade, it will be mainly those who are running Windows 2000 that move first.
On that basis, Windows XP will remain in mainstream use for quite some time, regardless of Microsoft's support lifecycle policy.
Microsoft's Windows Server product roadmap indicates a major release every four years, with an update release at the mid-point. I would like to see something similar for client releases, with a service pack every 12 months. Based on the release dates for XP SP1 and SP2, we should have seen SP3 already, but Microsoft's roadmap indicates that the next Windows XP service pack will not be ready until 2008.
Is this Microsoft's way of gently nudging us all towards Vista?
In time, Vista will become the operating system of choice, but until then, those of us using XP will still need to download, assess and test individual updates every "Patch Tuesday", while we wait for SP3.
Mark Wilson has been implementing and supporting IT infrastructure since 1994
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