Microsoft marked another near final milestone for its 9-year-old Windows XP operating system this week.
As of October 22 -- the first anniversary of the consumer launch of Windows 7 -- Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) no longer allows PC makers to sell PCs with Windows XP pre-installed. That includes netbooks as well.
Dell, in fact, quit taking orders for PCs pre-installed with XP in early September in order to make sure that all last minute orders were shipped by the cutoff date.
There are still avenues for determined customers to obtain XP, however, so the difference may be largely one of semantics. Because many corporate PC customers wanted to use what are called XP "downgrade rights" as part of their migration plans for moving to Windows 7, Microsoft extended those rights in July.
"An OEM's ability to generally offer downgrade facilitation options (e.g., pre-installing Windows XP Professional on a new PC that includes end-user rights for Windows 7 Professional) ends on October 22, 2010," Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc, said in a post to the Windows Team Blog in July.
The cutoff for getting XP downgrades on new systems had been set to the delivery date of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which is currently scheduled for release in the first half of 2011.
"Yes, it is correct that customers can still use downgrades rights to get XP on new machines up past the release of Windows 7 SP1," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.
Additionally, while all "mainstream" support for XP expired in April 2009, XP SP3 will continue under "extended" support until April 2014. However, extended support provides little besides free security fixes and paid per incident support.
Microsoft has been trying to wean customers off XP since it launched Windows Vista in January 2007. Vista's mediocre acceptance, however, helped XP, which shipped in late 2001, to become increasingly ensconced among users and corporations.
Even now, a year after Windows 7 went on sale commercially, XP still constitutes 60 percent of all operating systems used worldwide, according to Web analytics firm Net Applications. That's down by 10.5 percentage points from October 2009, though.
By comparison, Windows 7's market share has grown to 17.1 percent, while Vista holds 13.4 percent share.
Microsoft announced Thursday that it has now sold more than 240 million Windows 7 licenses.