Today, Microsoft is announcing the addition of an Extended Support phase for the Windows® XP Home Edition and Windows XP Media Center Edition operating systems, providing consumers with an additional phase of support.
With the addition of Extended Support, the support life cycle for Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Media Center Edition will include a total of five years of Mainstream Support (until April 2009) and five years of Extended Support, matching the support policy provided for Windows XP Professional.
The Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy standardizes Microsoft® product support policies for business and developer products as well as for consumer, hardware, multimedia and Microsoft Dynamics™ products.
If Vista ships in late 2006, come Christmas 2008 all the small business people, average Joes/Joans, and grannies in Peoria that have a Windows XP Home or Media Center system (some only two years old) are effectively going to be told to ante up for a Vista upgrade and even worse, install it, if they don’t want Internet nasties to infect their machines. Meanwhile, users of Windows XP Professional, which is mostly the same as Windows XP Home, will continue to get free security hotfixes for an additional five years under extended support while the XP Home users are outside the candy store with their noses pressed against the glass. Sounds like a PR nightmare to me, not to mention what it may do for sales of “home” systems for the rest of the year.
The right answer is to give the “home” versions of XP the same extended support as the “business” versions. My guess is that Microsoft will be forced to do the equivalent of this anyway, so why not do it now and look good?
Ah, that would have been too simple.
In the original match-up of the PC Titans, it was all Microsoft, but now that the return bout has shifted to personal entertainment gadgetry, Apple is showing some fancy footwork. Microsoft dominates the entertainment PC space with Windows XP Media Center Edition (particularly since they let OEMs ship it in PCs without TV tuners), but the problem is that entertainment PCs are still hanging out in the home office of most consumers and not with the stereo and TV. Meanwhile, Apple hit Microsoft with a roundhouse they didn’t see coming in the form of the iPod personal media player and iTunes music store which knocked down Microsoft and its PlaysForSure hardware partners.
For the next round, Microsoft has been talking tough with its Zune personal media player, but Apple came storming out of its corner yesterday and went right for the living room with a new appliance to bridge the PC to entertainment center gap:
But then Apple made what can only be called a highly unusual move for a company that forbids employees from even speculating publicly about forthcoming products. Jobs unveiled the iTV, a product he’s hoping will bridge the chasm between those movie downloads and the TV set in the living room. Thing is, it won’t be available until early 2007. When released, it will sell for $299.
“Apple is in your den, Apple is in your living room, Apple is in your car and, of course, Apple is in your pocket with iPods,” Jobs told the audience at the San Francisco event. “I hope this gives you a little bit of an idea where we’re going.”
Where Apple is going—or hopes to go—is territory that rivals have so far failed to conquer. Apple says iTV is capable of moving music, movies, and other content from a computer to a television, or another entertainment device. This would be done using wireless technology—probably some variant of wireless fidelity, although Apple didn’t explain further.
And iTV is supposed to work with both Macs and Windows PCs. By itself, this isn’t new other than the promise to support HTDV which will require the bandwidth of some variant of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard which hasn’t been ratified yet. Indeed, Microsoft currently has two offerings in this area:
Now there’s no claim of HDTV support for the above, but it isn’t like Microsoft left the space empty. The Apple value proposition seems to be like that for the iPod: a simple and foolproof device coupled with simplified video pricing and ordering at the iTunes store.
Speaking of video at the iTunes store, Apple also announced yesterday the availability of a selection of Disney movies (640×480 resolution) via iTunes with further studios expected in short order. (There have already been some complaints of long download times and you can’t start viewing until the download is complete.)
Finally, Apple also raised the bar for Zune with a revamp of the iPod line including brighter screens, more storage, and new iPod video games.
So how does the bout stand? Apple got in a few good punches yesterday, but this round’s not over, much more the fight.
Microsoft has informed PC makers that free upgrades to Vista will only be available for MCE (Media Center Edition – ed.) users, the paper said. For Windows XP users, upgrading to the entry-level version of Vista will cost US$116, while upgrading to the premium version will cost US$269, noted the paper. The cost may affect PC demand through the first quarter of next year, PC makers were quoted by the paper as saying.
Aside from the uncertain provenance, one wonders if there is a localization disconnect since the upgrade prices for XP Home users are more than standard retail and there’s another line in the article about MCE being only 10% of new PC Sales in the 4th quarter which seems unlikely in the USA. However, there’s a germ of a good idea here – Microsoft providing “like to like” free Vista upgrades for the various versions of XP before Vista is available. Nathan Weinberg provides a modest proposal in that regard and mentions some cons associated with it too. The biggest one I see is that sticking XP Home users with Vista Home Basic which lacks the fancy Aero “user experience” would seem to be an unpopular move.
I’m still wondering though, how much of an attraction the free coupons really are. For the OEMs, attaching any such coupons to a machine means making very sure that they have their ducks in a row on Vista driver availability and Vista compatibility of their preloaded software to avoid unpleasantness later. For non-technically minded buyers, performing an upgrade to a new operating system would seem to be an unlikely endeavor in any case, and perhaps the only real value of the coupon is the comfort of its presence as Marc Orchant observes:
Most folks – the great masses of people who in aggregate make a difference to big companies like Microsoft and Wal-Mart and Best Buy – are not waiting with bated breath to get their hands on Vista. They either don’t know about it, don’t care about it, or are content to wait for it. Which goes to show that the general public, maligned though they may often be by techies, has their collective heads screwed on pretty straight (at least as far as new versions of long-delayed and far overdue operating system upgrades go).
Yup… good idea not to antagonize prospective Q4 PC purchasers by making them agonize over whether to buy now or wait. Silly notion to expect it to create any additional demand. Not going to happen.
One final purchasing tip, though: if Microsoft sticks to its guns, the day Vista comes out starts the countdown ticking on the paltry two more years of security fix support that Windows XP Home and Windows XP Media Center Edition will receive since they are “home” and not “business” software.
Some of the smaller stories that didn’t get a post of their own:
Vista application developers are complaining about the sidebar gadgets.
Microsoft Research has a new project which tracks down spam websites that pollute search engine results.
“Microsoft Business Solutions is to foot the bill for recruiting 400 new consultants for its UK partners, to combat a severe skills shortage in the channel.”
One of the most frequent questions Microsoft is getting this week at Semicon West is: “What are you doing here?”
Former Philips executive Drew Gude, now high tech industry technology strategist at Microsoft, is leading Microsoft’s foray into the electronics market.
For example, Gude said that much of the equipment on manufacturing floors today – 80 percent – already runs the Windows operating system.
Microsoft, Vodafone, and Palm to create new Treo.