Microsoft has informed computer manufacturers that, by the start of 2008, they will no longer be allowed to ship PCs loaded with Windows XP. It's a major step in Microsoft's plan to install Vista as the default PC operating system.

"The OEM version of XP Professional goes next January," said Frank Luburic, senior ThinkPad product manager for Lenovo. "At that point, they'll have no choice."

The news comes despite large-scale customer resistance to Windows Vista, which has so far underwhelmed so much that the OS is being rejected as a viable option by the majority of professional computer users.

"Dell recognizes the needs of small business customers and understands that more time is needed to transition to a new operating system," Dell said on its Direct2Dell blog.

Vista takeover

"The plan is to continue offering Windows XP on select Dimension and Inspiron systems until later this summer." Dell ANZ corporate communications manager Paul McKeon told APC.

"From a local perspective, the post was a reminder more than an announcement. This was something we'd always planned during the transition phase since businesses will have different time frames to adopt the new OS. If you're a consumer, you're unlikely to be managing more than say 2.4 OS images at home, so it's less of an issue."

Severe driver incompatibilities for certain hardware like sound and graphics cards, have so far led to many people snubbing Vista in favour of buying new PCs loaded with the older Windows XP.

Microsoft will continue to support Windows XP for some years . Under the corporation's Support Lifecyle Policy , so-called 'mainstream' support for XP will end in April 2009. That means no security updates will be issued after then - unless you've paid for them in an 'extended hotfix agreement' from Microsoft. That's available until 2014!