Microsoft turnabout on XP follows user demands

Company says 180-degree turnaround motivated by customer and hardware partner feedback

Even the next version of Microsoft's flagship OS, labeled Windows 7 at the moment, may not be able to kill XP, said the analysts. "I'm not sure there will be anything magic in Windows 7 that will make it work better on a 512MB or 1GB PC," said Silver. "The extension of availability until Windows 7 may more likely reflect Microsoft's hope that by 2010 or so, the economics of the hardware will improve to the point where Windows 7 is viable on that class of PC."

Windows 7, which Microsoft briefly touted last week, is expected out in late 2009 or early 2010, months before the end-of-availability for XP on the low-end notebooks and desktops.

"While Microsoft needs to continue to streamline Windows to quell its appetite for more resources, how skinny they can get Windows 7 is still questionable," Silver said.

Gartenberg had other advice for Microsoft. He urged the company to take XP, overlay a Windows 7-esque user interface on the OS, then call it "something like Windows 7 Mobile or Windows 7 Nettop or whatever."

And the developer should rethink its marketing strategy, Gartenberg added. "Microsoft needs to think about ways to drive people to Vista, not force them away from XP."

In related news, Taiwanese OEM Asustek Computer used the same Computex trade show to announce it would launch the Eee Box, a mini-desktop PC that apparently fits Microsoft's definition of nettop. The Eee Box will come with either Windows XP or Linux and be priced between US$200 and $300 in the U.S. And later this year, said the company's CEO, Jerry Shen, Asustek will unveil an iMac-like all-in-one called the Eee Monitor.

Asustek is one of the major players in the low-cost notebook market, and is noted for the low-priced Eee PC.

There are now less than four weeks left before Microsoft shuts off most OEMs from selling new PCs with XP and stops shipping the old OS to retailers.

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