SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp.'s operating systems run most personal computers around the globe and are a cash cow for the world's largest software maker. But you'd never confuse a Windows user with the passionate fans of Mac OS X or even the free Linux operating system.
Unless it's someone running Windows XP, a version Microsoft wants to retire.
Fans of the six-year-old operating system set to be pulled off store shelves in June have papered the Internet with blog posts, cartoons and petitions recently. They trumpet its superiority to Windows Vista, Microsoft's latest PC operating system, whose consumer launch last January was greeted with lukewarm reviews.
No matter how hard Microsoft works to persuade people to embrace Vista, some just can't be wowed. They complain about Vista's hefty hardware requirements, its less-than-peppy performance, occasional incompatibility with other programs and devices and frequent, irritating security pop-up windows.
For them, the impending disappearance of XP computers from retailers, and the phased withdrawal of technical support in coming years, is causing a minor panic.
Take, for instance, Galen Gruman. A longtime technology journalist, Gruman is more accustomed to writing about trends than starting them.
But after talking to Windows users for months, he realized his distaste for Vista and strong attachment to XP were widespread.
"It sort of hit us that, wait a minute, XP will be gone as of June 30. What are we going to do?" he said. "If no one does something, it's going to be gone."
So Gruman started a Save XP Web petition, gathering since January more than 100,000 signatures and thousands of comments, mostly from die-hard XP users who want Microsoft to keep selling it until the next version of Windows is released, currently targeted for 2010.
On the petition site's comments section, some users proclaimed they will downgrade from Vista to XP if they need to buy a new computer after XP goes off the market.
Others used the comments section to rail against the very idea that Microsoft has the power to enforce the phase-out from a stable, decent product to one that many consider worse, while profiting from the move. Many threatened to leave Windows for Apple or Linux machines.
Microsoft already extended the XP deadline once, but it shows no signs it will do so again. The company has declined to meet with Gruman to consider the petition. Microsoft is aware of the petition, it said in a statement, and "will continue to be guided by feedback we hear from partners and customers about what makes sense based on their needs."
Gruman said he'd keep pressing for a meeting.
"They really believe if they just close their eyes, people will have no choice," he said.
Although Microsoft may not budge on selling new copies of XP, it may have to extend support for it.
On the Net
n Save XP Petition: weblog.infoworld.com/save-xp/
* Microsoft's Windows support timeline: support.microsoft.com/gp/lifepolicy