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You can buy the laptop with Vista and downgrade to XP with Microsoft's blessing, but be aware that XP will only be on sale officially until June 2008 - that's next month!

I am typing this on a Vista laptop (Dell) which I bought two months ago.

Vista Service Pack 1 is now available, as is XP Service Pack 3, which I have deployed on my other three computers.

I teach IT and am currently in a support role in a local High School. Not all that you read or hear about Vista is true and, while I am definitely not a huge fan of Microsoft, I will defend them on this issue because it is very often the third party software and hardware suppliers who are at fault for not having Vista-compatible drivers and applications.

Another possibilty for older software is to try the compatibility mode built in to Windows XP Pro and Vista,where you can get the program to run as if it is in, say, Windows 98, for example.
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