June 11, 2010

PC makers no longer allowed to preinstall Windows XP on new netbooks as of October

Before Windows 7 launched, there was a lot of consternation about when Microsoft planned to cut off the supply of Windows XP to netbook makers.

This week, Microsoft officials reminded customers and partners of that deadline date – October 22, 2010. As of that date, “OEMs will no longer be able to pre-install Windows XP Home on new netbook PCs,” Microsoft officials said. (Microsoft announced this cutoff date back in 2008, when Microsoft called netbooks ultra-low-cost PCs, or ULPCs)

There are still a number of XP-based netbooks for sale at retail. But the number of Windows 7 netbooks has been picking up since Windows 7 launched in October. According to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, as of April 2010, 81 percent of netbooks sold at retail in the U.S. came with Windows 7 preinstalled (according to a new post on the Microsoft “Blogging Windows” site).

A year ago, there was considerable worry about the price Microsoft planned to charge PC makers for Windows 7. The company is believed to charge OEMs about $15 per copy for XP. The rumored price per copy of Windows 7 is closer to $50. (Microsoft  officials won’t comment on the record about the exact price per copy the company charges OEMs for any version of Windows.) The thinking a year ago was that PC makers would have to pass that higher cost on to consumers. However, netbooks have stayed cheap. OEMs (and Microsoft) have been maintaining higher margins by selling more pricey form factors, like thin and lights. Windows 7 slates (when they come to market) might fall into this higher-margin category as well.

There also were concerns a year ago as to how well Windows 7 would run on netbooks. Would anything but the lowest end SKUs be too cumbersome to run on low-power processors and/or machines with smaller amounts of drive space? The answer has proven to be no to both. A number of users are running Windows 7 Ultimate — and not just Home or Home Premium — on their netbooks.

Do you think there’s still any reason to worry about the impending XP-preload cutoff date? If so, why?

Meanwhile, one more Windows-related date reminder: July 13, 2010 is the date when Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 2 reaches the end of support. If you still want/need Microsoft support for XP, you should move to XP SP3 before that date. Extended support — which means paid support plus free security hotfixes — for XP SP3 ends in April 2014.

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