Microsoft plans to kill Windows XP by preventing PC manufacturers from selling systems running the operating system by 31 January 2008.

That date would mark a full year since Microsoft’s newest OS – Windows Vista – became available to consumers, and yet the decision to retire XP remains controversial. PC makers, including Dell, continue to sell XP-based systems despite Vista’s release and many analysts have reported a lukewarm reception to Microsoft’s newest, more expensive OS.

Dell’s decision to continue selling XP-based PCs is largely to cater for the business market. "Dell recognises the needs of small business customers and understands that more time is needed to transition to a new operating system," said Tom West, director of small business marketing at Dell, on the company's blog. "The plan is to continue offering Windows XP on select Dimension and Inspiron systems until later this summer."

Dell and other major computer manufacturers such as HP and Toshiba will no longer have the option to offer XP once Microsoft stops selling licences for the OS next January. However, some manufacturers may be able to get hold of XP licences from third-party resellers until 2009. Plus, Microsoft said it would continue to support XP beyond that date.

While many analysts have reported slow demand for Windows Vista, Microsoft claims the OS is selling twice as fast as XP did when it launched in 2001. The company said more than 20 million licences were sold during the first month on sale.

Furthermore, PC Advisor readers have reported fairly strong demand for the new OS. Nearly 25 percent of those who responded to our Windows Vista survey last month had already upgraded to Vista.

See PC Advisor's review of Windows Vista and discuss the new operating system with other readers in our Windows Vista forum.