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Microsoft: All roads lead to Vista

Free support, PC maker backing, and XP's uncertain future mean one thing: like it or not, Vista is coming to your desktop. Are you ready?

Windows Vista's checkered history is now legend.

Instead of the evolutionary marvel that Microsoft long promised, Vista instead has become synonymous with development delays, shifting feature lists, and spotty driver support.

Outlook for Vista
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No wonder then, more than a year after Vista's release, many consumers and business customers have steadfastly held onto Vista's predecessor, the Windows XP operating system. Microsoft has followed with price cuts and promotions. This is not exactly the "wow" moment the company had in mind.'s Ina Fried has chronicled Vista's first year in earlier posts.

Still, we know that all good Windows releases eventually come to an end: Windows XP is stable, widely supported, and ultimately doomed. New PCs with XP installed will begin to disappear this summer. Microsoft will stop selling XP completely next January (although the company will provide support for much longer).

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reports that it's unclear when a rumored service pack, SP3, will debut for XP, raising speculation that Microsoft is sending a pointed message about upgrade planning.

On Tuesday, Dell launched a Vista migration program to nudge big companies toward the OS. The PC maker's "client migration solution" will cut migration costs by up to 62 percent and reduce labor by an estimated 88 percent, Dell says.

Microsoft is greasing the skids for Vista acceptance by offering free telephone support for Vista Service Pack 1 through March 2009. (The toll-free call-in number in the U.S. for Vista SP1 help is (866)-234-6020.)

We're still waiting.... Caroline McCarthy/CNET

Despite past "downgrade" offers from Dell and other PCs makers, and even a cottage industry of sorts around removing Vista from new PCs, most of us will likely be using Vista sometime in the near future.

Is that a bad thing? In my view, no, it's not. Let's face it: XP may work, but it's not pretty. Cosmetics aside, when Vista works well--and in truth that's more and more often for me--it works very well. I've been running Vista on three machines for well over a year. Compatibility issues are beginning to disappear, my wireless network connection no longer mysteriously vanishes, and other random glitches appear to have been fixed.

Still, maybe I'm setting the bar too low. Should we expect more from Vista? Are you ready to give up XP?