Ballmer: Hinted that XP could live beyond the scheduled cut off date
PC makers are finding ways to keep selling Windows XP despite Microsoft efforts to remove it from sale.
Dell, HP and Lenovo are exploiting loopholes in Microsoft's licensing terms to extend the operating system beyond a 30 June end of life date.
XP is being phased out in favour of Windows Vista which has, so far, got a lukewarm welcome from many firms.
The news comes as Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer hints that XP could live longer if enough customers demand it.
Dell is using a clause in the conditions for Windows Vista which lets it provide XP under the terms of a "downgrade license" for the Business and Ultimate versions of the new operating system.
This means that Dell can install Windows XP Professional for free on its Latitude, OptiPlex, and Precision machines. In the main these deals are meant for business customers.
For consumers and small firms Dell will, for a fee, install XP Pro on Vostro and XPS gaming machines.
HP is also using the "downgrade" option to keep selling XP with some models until 30 July 2009.
In all these cases a PC is logged as a Vista sale and, in effect, is being sold with an unused option to upgrade to the newer operating system.
With some machines Lenovo is installing Vista but including a XP recovery disk so owners can roll back to the older software.
The news comes only days after Microsoft reported its third quarter results down 11% largely due to a fall in sales in its Windows software division.
Despite this Microsoft said its sales of Vista licenses stood at 140m - a figure that was in line with its predictions.
At the same time Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer said that XP could get a longer life if enough customers demanded it.
During a Q&A session at a press conference in Belgium Mr Ballmer said: "If customer feedback varies, we can always wake up smarter, but right now, we have a plan for end-of-life for new XP shipments."
Microsoft has extended the life of Windows XP Home until 2010 on low-powered PCs, such as the Asus Eee, that might struggle to cope with Vista's power demands.