Dell's announcement that Windows XP would no longer be offered as an option for pre-loading as of October 22 is only the first in what will be a series of similar announcements. Microsoft announced long ago that this would be the end of Windows XP sales, and the company has given no indication that it plans to extend this drop-dead date. So if you're still buying Windows XP, the time has come to change your plans.
You can, of course, run out and buy all the new computers you think you might need for the immediate future just to get Windows XP on them. Or you could do the more rational thing and decide that the time to make the transition to Windows 7 has finally come. While Microsoft will continue support, including updates and service packs until sometime in April, 2014, that will be the end. Unless you plan to take your enterprise naked into the wilderness, your last Windows XP machine should be gone by then.
Unfortunately, far too many enterprises have been hiding under a blanket hoping to keep the monsters of transition away instead of facing them when the pathway first became clear. They kept buying Windows XP-based machines, hoping the day would never come when they had to change to something else. Change, after all, is scary.
Despite the fact that the final days of Windows XP have been known for a very long time, companies kept using it, they kept developing applications in it, and in general pretending that there was no need to change. Now there is a need. So it's time to do something about it.
There are really two somethings that need to be done. First, you need to make sure that the applications you use will still work like they should in Windows 7. For the most part, they will. Windows 7 has a compatibility mode that lets it pretend to be Windows XP. The only glitches to this come when you're running the 64-bit version of Windows 7. Not all 32-bit applications will work in that environment. But you can buy 32-bit computers with a 32-bit version of Windows and that problem will mostly go away.
In a few cases, you may need to upgrade to a newer version of the software you require, or if it's locally written, you might need to recompile it for the newer OS. These are all things that will take time and can cost some money in staff time, but let's face it, pretending the future will never happen has never been a good business model. You were going to have to do this anyway.
The other something you need to do is train your IT staff in Windows 7. While there will be some transition time here, this isn't exactly rocket science. The biggest hurdle is really inertia. The IT staff won't necessarily be comfortable changing. But they could surprise you when you find out that they're all running Windows 7 at home already, and that the training they need is mostly limited to supporting enterprise features that are new.
But no matter how you look at it, the time for excuses has run out. You have a defined time in which to come up with some other solution, whether it's Windows 7, Linux or perhaps Macs. But whatever you do, you now know the time and manner of Windows XP's death. There's no excuse for not being ready.