If you walk into a large retailer today to buy a new computer, you will see several versions of the Windows Operating System to choose from: Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business and Ultimate. The problem is that Windows XP is no longer an option.
If you like all the latest and greatest toys, bells and whistles that may be fine for you. However, most users have a problem with Windows Vista; several problems actually. To begin with, there are many applications that run fine on Windows XP that do not work on Windows Vista. Windows Vista is also a very resource intensive operating system. This means it requires much more powerful hardware to run smoothly than Windows XP did. Over time, Windows Vista gets slow and glitches begin to appear. It is a nice looking operating system, but most users would prefer it function as well as Windows XP than have all the glamour. This is not to say that Windows XP is perfect. Remember it too had problems at first, but after a few patches and service packs over the years, it has become very stable. Give Microsoft time to release a service pack or two and I'm sure that Windows Vista will be greatly improved. Eventually, most new versions of programs will run with it fine as well.
But what about right now? What if you do not want to deal with Windows Vista and would rather have Windows XP? To help businesses with software compatibility problems, Microsoft did a nice thing. If you purchase a new PC with Windows Vista Business or Ultimate Editions, you can use your product key to install Windows XP Professional on that PC. Great right? You would think so, but there is a problem. When you install Windows, you then have to install device drivers. You need a driver for your video card, sound card, modem, network card, etc. Device drivers are software and they are written specifically for a version of Windows. So you might find an XP version and a Vista version of a driver for your sound card. The problem is that many new computers have very new sound cards, network cards, video cards... and on and on, but the computer manufacturers are only making Vista drivers, NOT XP drivers. So, while you CAN install Windows XP on those new computers, in many cases, you CANNOT make them work completely.
So do I have to use Windows Vista? Do I have a choice? The answer for now is yes. Microsoft is still selling Windows XP to computer manufacturers that choose to use it, but at this point, more and more choose not to. You can still buy Windows XP computers from Dell and you can still buy them from smaller local computer shops (like PreactiveIT.com for instance) that custom build PCs.
Eventually Microsoft will quit shipping Windows XP to any computer builders, but hopefully by that time Windows Vista will be a little more ready for prime time.