Q: I hear that Microsoft is going to “kill” Windows XP this summer. My computer has Windows XP. Is this something I should be concerned about?

Tech Q & A
– Submitted by many

A: It’s funny how many variations of this question exist. Yes, Microsoft says they will stop shipping Windows XP after June 30th. Some people think that this means that Microsoft will no longer provide support for XP. Others think they will be forced to upgrade to Vista this summer or their computer will stop working. But most people have only heard little bits of this story and basically have no idea what to think. So let me set the story straight for you.

Microsoft says they will stop shipping Windows XP after June 30th. They could still change their mind, as there are many grassroots efforts trying to convince Microsoft otherwise. But let’s assume Microsoft will stick to their guns. What this means is that Microsoft will not ship XP to the distribution channel (wholesalers) or directly to customers. However, any copies of XP that are in stock in distribution or retail will still be available for purchase as long as that stock is available. Many distributors and retailers are planning on stockpiling copies of XP, so it could be very likely that Windows XP will be available for sale long after June 30th. And there are some loopholes for “system builders”, small companies who build computers for resale where they can continue to buy Windows XP through the end of the year. There are also other loopholes that apply mostly to businesses which I won’t go into here.

So June 30th may be the beginning of the end of Windows XP, but certainly nothing dramatic will happen on that date. Your computer with Windows XP WILL continue to work. You will NOT be forced to upgrade to Vista. Microsoft will simply stop shipping new Windows XP copies. Buying a new PC with Windows XP may become a little more challenging after June 30th, but it will still be possible.

Also, just because Microsoft will stop shipping Windows XP does not mean they are ending support for XP. Microsoft will continue to provide “mainstream” support for XP until April 2009. Then they will continue to provide “extended” support through April 2014. However, most people don’t get support directly from Microsoft anyway, so this is largely irrelevant. What is important is whether or not Microsoft will continue to release bug fixes and security patches. Microsoft’s plan is to continue to provide security updates through April of 2014. As far as “bug fixes”, that is left up to Microsoft’s discretion whether they will release fixes to the public after April of 2009. But some experts believe that because Service Pack 3 for Windows XP was just released very recently, that Microsoft may extend the timeframe in which they will continue to release bug fixes for XP with SP 3.

So bottom line is don’t worry … be happy! June 30th will pass us by and you and your computer will be no worse for the wear. As usual, please submit any technology questions you may have to me and your question may be featured in this newsletter!