Boxes of Windows Vista software sit on a store shelf.
Boxes of Windows Vista software sit on a store shelf. - 
Listen To The Story


KAI RYSSDAL: The 70 percent of us whose computers use the Windows XP operating system are about to fall victim to what you might call planned obsolescence. XP is technically the old Windows system. Vista is their newest one. And as of next week Vista users are going to be the ones Microsoft spends most of its time worrying about. Tamara Keith explains.

Tamara Keith: At Microsoft, when a piece of software reaches a certain age, it transitions from what the company calls "mainstream support," to what it calls "extended support."

Rich Kaplan: For the majority of customers, it's a relatively simple change.

Rich Kaplan is a corporate Vice President at Microsoft. For home computer users, he says free support goes away Tuesday. The only automatic bug fixes customers will get are security patches.

Kaplan: We use something called Windows Update to do that and essentially that will continue in the extended support phase.

And that will last until 2014. Now, this may seem like a not so subtle attempt to push people to a newer operating system, but Kaplan insists the switch has nothing to do with the release of new software.

Kaplan: We'd love people to upgrade to Windows Vista. When Windows 7 is available we'd love to have them take a look at that, but it is important to note that Windows XP launched in 2001, so it's now eight years in market, and that's a long time for software.

And at some point, a company like Microsoft can't let itself get bogged down with aging software says John Abel, the New York Bureau Chief for

John Abel: Sadly, time moves on and nobody uses horses and buggies anymore. However if you had one, you could easily have it maintained for a price.

And it's the same for Microsoft. For a fee, the company will help customers work through any issue they have with any version of its software.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.