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What do Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Windows XP all have in common? No matter how hard you try, it seems you just can't kill 'em.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) continues to extend the lifespan of its XP operating system, even though it originally planned to phase out the platform last year, in favor of Windows Vista. However, Vista's bad rap -- real or undeserving -- finds the software giant stretching out the availability of XP. The Redmond giant now plans to keep selling licenses well into 2009, and don't be surprised if it's still around even after Windows 7 euthanizes Vista.

A major reason for the success of the XP platform is the surging popularity in netbooks. Since the cheap, portable laptops come with as little as a half gigabyte of RAM, XP or an open source Linux alternative are the operating systems of choice over the memory-hogging Vista.

However, even outside of the realm of netbooks, consumers are still drawn to Windows XP. It works. It's time-tested. It doesn't have those "I'm a Mac" Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) ads ripping it to shreds.

Earlier this month, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) was charging desktop and laptop buyers an extra $150 to "downgrade" from Vista to XP. That's just embarrassing.

No one has any idea if the market will warm up to the eventual rollout of Windows 7 any better than it has to Vista. It's in Microsoft's best interest to have many flavors out there. It may confuse inexperienced computer shoppers, but Microsoft has to stay relevant even if it means becoming the Baskin-Robbins of operating systems.

The world is gaining on Microsoft. Apple's platform is eating market share as a result of wider adoption of its MacBooks. Some netbooks are shipping with the Linux-based Ubuntu system, a troubling trend starter if the growing popularity of cloud computing makes more users OS-agnostic. There are plenty of free online apps out there like Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Docs, Sun's (Nasdaq: JAVA  ) OpenOffice, and Adobe's (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) Buzzword to lure all but diehard Microsoft Office users to the cloud computing economy.

Microsoft is no longer calling the shots. Consumers are in control. If they want to see XP live on, it will, no matter how many times it gets stabbed.

Microsoft and Dell are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Dell and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is gradually tiptoeing into cloud computing apps, and he likes it. Hdoes not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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