When I read this BBC News story a week ago, I didn't really think about it much. Entitled "Windows XP to be retired in 2008" the first five lines said:

"Windows XP will stop being available on new PCs from the end of January 2008. Microsoft is keeping to a plan to stop selling the operating system..."

And the reason I didn't think about it was that I understood the underlying message - from January next year new PCs could only be shipped with Windows Vista.

But since then, I've had a few queries about what's going on, and people thinking that from next year, you can't install or run Windows XP on a PC, and that we are stopping supporting it.

So back to the original story - I knew that this wouldn't be an issue for college customers, as many of you buy Windows Upgrade licences under one of the Academic Volume Licensing (VL) Schemes such as the Campus Agreement. This means that you (a) pay less for their software and (b) have more flexibility with your licensing. For example, you can buy a PC with Windows Vista Home Basic, and upgrade the licence using the VL schemes to, for example, Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate. This often saves you money, and also gives you "downgrade rights" - the ability to use a previous version of the software (like Windows XP).

The benefit is that you can buy the latest licences, and then run an older version of the software until you want to move across to the latest (a typical scenario when you have a classroom/college full of Windows XP machines, and you want to move them all together, rather than have a mix of operating systems). The alternative to this is buying old versions of software, and then having to upgrade the licences later (which overall costs more...).

If you are worried that from next year you'll not be able to run PCs on Windows XP, then that's not the case. If you've got hundreds of lesson plans that you don't want to change just yet, panic not. You can still run any version, and we'll keep on providing support for Windows XP for quite a few years yet. But if you buy a new PC next year, then it will have Windows Vista on it, and if you want to run Windows XP, you'll need to have a downgradeable licence for it.

Licensing is complicated - and I admit to not fully, fully understanding it - so take a look at our licensing pages for education, and if you have any questions, then email our licensing team (the email address is on the website)