Windows XP has been the iconic operating system since it debuted in October of 2001. By today's standards the computers made back then were little more than large calculators but perhaps I am exaggerating that point. Since that time Windows XP was installed on every single computer sold but now the sun is going to set on the operating system that was known as Windows XP.
Microsoft is intent on no longer making OEM versions of Windows XP, this means computer manufacturers will no longer be able to install XP on systems unless they have a very specific agreement with Microsoft or are just good buddies with them like Dell.
Dell will introduce systems under a Customized with XP slogan, there really isn't much more information on that but these systems won't be on offer until later this year. Other manufacturers will probably just offer Vista on all their systems since Dell is the only one to have strong objections to this so far. But, Dell also has some of the strongest ties with Microsoft so it makes sense THEY could get away with it.
This could also mean that you will no longer be able to pick up OEM copies of XP from online retailers like Newegg and others. It has not been speculated on what this means for full retail copies of XP, my guess is that its demise is not far behind.
APCMag is reporting that by early 2008 most of Microsoft's contracts with computer manufacturers will require them to install Vista only and they wont have a choice. Consumer demand for XP preinstalled on systems is still strong and given the compatibility and performance problems of Vista on SOME systems this move is probably a little premature on Microsoft's part. That isn't going to stop them.
I'm all for Vista, I think it is a nice step forward and believe it or not those backwards compatibility issues with programs is a security feature if older apps can't run that means older viruses or spyware can't run in some cases, I've also noticed lower infection rates across the board on Vista at least for the short few months it has been out.
What will keep most people away from Vista are the hardware requirements. Most consumers will have no choice but to buy a completely new system if they want the full Vista experience and that should include a dedicated graphics card, dual core processor and 1GB to 2GB of memory (laptop or desktop) when buying a computer with Vista.