Vista Resistance: Why XP Is Still So Strong

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Apple Impact?

XP satisfaction might keep many people from picking up a Vista box at the store, but another, more surprising factor may be leading others to buy a new copy of XP instead of Vista: namely, Apple.

While Windows PCs still outnumber Macs by a large margin, the latter are becoming much more popular. Stephen Baker, another analyst with the NPD Group, notes that more than one in six laptops sold at retail are MacBooks. Those figures don't include direct sales from huge vendors like Dell; if they did, Apple's market share would shrink significantly. Nevertheless, the statistic underscores that many people are buying Macs.

In years past, switching to a Mac meant saying goodbye to all of your Windows software. But today's Intel-based Macs can happily run Vista or XP, either natively with Apple's Boot Camp or in virtualized form with Parallels or VMWare Fusion--if the new Mac buyer also purchases a copy of Windows.

That's just what Sanford's mother did recently, he says, when she bought a new MacBook, intending to run Windows on it as well. Given the choice between a copy of Vista that may or may not run all of her current Windows software, and a cheaper copy of XP that definitely will, she opted for XP.

Hurdles for Gamers

Similarly, many gamers are choosing the supposedly outdated OS for new purchases. Dell's Pearcy says that a large majority of consumers buying new PCs decide on Vista, but that the choosy gaming crowd is one niche group that seems to prefer XP. One reason, she says, is the lack of games that take advantage of Vista's DirectX 10. Also, the normal performance and compatibility issues encountered with a new OS might merely annoy an everyday user, but to gamers looking for top speed, they're a killer.

For example, older games that use DirectSound 3D got short shrift in the new OS, since Vista lacks the audio feature entirely. (And without support for that API, sound cards capable of accelerating DirectSound lost much of their utility.)

Newer games using the OpenAL standard that Vista supports won't suffer, but older favorites such as Blizzard's Diablo 2 require a software workaround from Creative Labs to run with surround-sound effects--or in some cases, to run at all.

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