Dell to Halt Windows XP System Shipments

Dell and other vendors will stop shipping Windows XP computers starting Oct. 22, although a loophole exists for qualified customers who don't want to use Windows 7.

Dell and other PC vendors will stop shipping systems with Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Home installed, beginning Oct. 22. Dell customers will no longer have Windows XP as an option starting in late September, although the manufacturer plans to continue Windows XP driver support through December 2012.

"After the Oct. 22 date, qualified customers will still be able to get systems with Windows XP ... through Dell's Custom Factory Integration service," said a Sept. 7 post on Direct2Dell, the company's corporate blog. "Otherwise, customers who order new machines with Windows 7 Professional or higher can run XP applications in Windows XP mode."

Microsoft had previously announced in April 2008 that OEMs would no longer be able to preinstall Windows XP Home on new netbook PCs starting Oct. 22. That follows the company's announcement of the end of Windows XP Service Pack 2 support on July 13. Extended support for Windows XP SP3 is scheduled to end in April 2014, with no new updates or patches after that point.

"For a majority of our customers, they may not notice much change," Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc posted June 9 on The Windows Blog. "Many PC makers have already been actively manufacturing and selling a broad set of Windows 7 notebooks since Windows 7 released in October 2009. In fact, according to NPD's Retail Tracking Service, by April 2010, 81 [percent] of netbook units sold at retail in the U.S. came with Windows 7 preinstalled."

Windows 7's market share finally passed that of the much-maligned Windows Vista in July, although it continues to lag behind the nearly decade-old XP. Microsoft has been issuing a series of discounts and promotional offers for individual customers and businesses in an attempt to increase adoption of the newest version of Windows.

Microsoft's discount offers may also be a reflection of slowing PC shipments due to a soft economy. Gartner recently reduced its forecast for PC sales growth in the second half of 2010 to 15.3 percent, reflecting wariness on the part of consumers and businesses about whether the economy will slide back into recession.

Windows' traditional bastion of laptops and desktops also faces a rising challenge from tablets such as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab. Although Microsoft executives have indicated that Windows 7-loaded tablets are indeed in the works, these devices have so far not materialized in the marketplace.

If consumer tablets continue to gain market share, and if Microsoft delays in porting Windows 7 to the mobile device category, the company could find itself battling fiercely against Google Android and Apple iOS for traditional operating system market share in addition to competing in the area of smartphones.