Dell Relents, Offers Windows XP as Consumer Option

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Dell bowed to pressure from customers and dumped its Vista-only policy for consumer PCs by adding Windows XP as operating option on half-a-dozen machines.

Dell now offers Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional on two Dimension desktops -- the E520 and E521 -- and four Inspiron laptops, the 1405, 1705, 1505 and 1501.

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Customer Demand

"We heard you loud and clear on bringing the Windows XP option back to our Dell consumer PC offerings," Dell said on its Ideas in Action page, a companion to its IdeaStorm site.

IdeaStorm, a site rolled out in February where Dell customers can plead for changes, has been most notable for convincing the Round Rock, Texas company to add Linux as an OS option. The requests for XP started coming a day after IdeaStorm launched.

"I would like to see both Home and Business computers, especially notebooks, have an XP Home and Pro option on top of Vista until it has at least been out for a year," said javaprog07 in the inaugural message on that particular thread.

XP for Businesses

Earlier this month, Dell decided to add Windows XP on systems sold to its small business customers. At the time, Tom West, Dell's director of small business marketing, said the older operating systems wouldn't be offered to consumers. "Dell does not have plans to launch Windows XP for home users as the preference and demand is for the 'latest and greatest' technology which includes Windows Vista," he said on the Direct2Dell blog.

On Thursday, Lionel Menchaca, Dell's manager of digital media noted the reversal in another blog entry. "After Tom West's post that said Dell would offer Windows XP on systems for small business customers, many Direct2Dell readers have commented or sent e-mails asking us to bring back Windows XP for home users as well. Today, we're doing that."

The new XP option is available only to U.S. customers.

Rival Hewlett-Packard Co. was not available for comment on whether it would answer Dell with a Windows XP option for its consumer customers. HP's small business systems can currently be ordered with either Windows XP Home or XP Professional, as well as Vista Business or Home Basic; the company's consumer PCs, however, are available only with Vista.

Pricing Options

In related news, Dell's XP option makes it easier to compare the end-user cost of Vista on OEM-built PCs. Two Dimension E521s, one configured with Windows XP Home and the other with Windows Vista Home Basic, end up priced identically at $499. An E521 equipped with Vista Home Premium, however, costs $529, or $30 more. Likewise, the same PC with Windows XP Professional pre-installed runs $648, while one armed with Vista Ultimate costs $668.

That last price comparison is at odds with Microsoft's prior positioning of Vista editions; it has equated the less expensive Business edition as the Vista equivalent of Windows XP Professional, and Ultimate as a completely new SKU. The retail list price difference between Vista Business and Vista Ultimate, however, is $100 for a full version, $60 for an upgrade; both are considerably more than the $20 surcharge Dell puts on Vista Ultimate over Windows XP Professional.

OEMs like Dell will be able to pre-install Windows XP on new systems until Jan. 31, 2008; smaller system builders and end-users, however, will be able to license XP into early 2009.

This story, "Dell Relents, Offers Windows XP as Consumer Option" was originally published by Computerworld.

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