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Windows Vista: The 'New Coke' of the PC age

Microsoft's XP gets its final service pack next week. But users fight for a stay of execution.

By Tom ReganColumnist / April 24, 2008



It was supposed to be a great leap forward for computing. Windows Vista would dazzle users with its sleek interface, protect data with unparalleled security, and eclipse Windows XP as the worldwide standard in computer operating systems.

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But with each passing day, it looks more and more like Vista is the "New Coke" of the PC generation. The demand of XP users to keep using their trusty operating system continues to grow.

It's not just the individual user who is fed up with the wacky Vista system and the massive amount of computing power and disk space needed to make it run. It's also businesses across the United States – and no doubt the world – that are in no hurry to "upgrade" to Vista.

But they might have to.

Next Tuesday, Microsoft will release its third and final XP "Service Pack" – its term for major upgrade. And the company has said that June 30 is it. There will be no more copies of XP on store shelves and no more OEMs (original equipment manufacturers – which is a misnomer because it really refers to people who buy computers, slap their logos on the case, and sell them – which is most computer companies these days; Can you say "Made in China?"). Finished. It's over. Gone forever. Sayonara. Auf Wiedersehen.

This bit of news has been greeted with, well, an insurrection. As of last count, 165,000 people have signed technology columnist Galen Gruman's online petition to "Save XP" and keep it alive indefinitely. In fact, columnist Robert X. Cringely reports that there is word that Dell will continue to offer XP on business-class computers, such as Latitude and Optiplex, through 2011 at no extra cost. Clearly, Dell understands that XP loyalists – and some downright Vista detractors – will pay good money to keep the seven-year-old system.

Confession time. When XP came out, I – like many others – panned it in a review for reasons too numerous to mention. Years later, after I learned how to get rid of a lot of the annoying stuff, it gets me through the day. I might warm to Vista over time, but they'll have to make a lot of improvements before I'm willing to touch it. (Do a quick Internet search on Vista to find some of the many reasons why there's such a backlash.)

The very loud noises coming from the growing mob outside the castle gate appears to have caught Microsoft's attention.