As announced back in 2008, today marks the last day that netbook manufacturers will be allowed to pre-install Windows XP. As netbooks are more or less the only PCs still preinstalled with XP (their less-powerful hardware isn’t always up to the task of running Windows 7), this marks the beginning of the end for the two-generations-old operating system.

XP was introduced in 2001, and two new versions of Windows have launched since – the disastrous Vista in 2006, followed by the more successful and well-received Windows 7 in 2009. Despite this, XP still maintains a 51.7% market share, and Microsoft is ready to turn the page. Microsoft’s Windows XP page now urges visitors to upgrade to Windows 7 (and lists 10 reasons why they should), and the company ended support for XP’s Service Pack 2 back in June.

Despite this, Microsoft has begrudgingly acknowledged the concerns of XP loyalists. “We know you love XP,” says the company’s website, and promises that those who buy a PC pre-loaded with Windows 7 can “downgrade” back to XP if they choose. Microsoft will also continue to provide technical support for XP Service Pack 3 users, though only through April 2014. And as notes, corporate customers can still special-order PCs with XP pre-installed.

So if you’re a small business owner, should you snatch up one of the last remaining XP netbooks (like this 1 GB Asus on sale for $239.99 at Best Buy) or try to get a special order of XP PCs for your business? Before you do, consider again that April 2014 isn’t as far off as it sounds, and that four years from now you won’t be able to get any kind of support if your device encounters technical problems. And while many netbooks have stuck with XP because of its low system requirements, that doesn’t mean they can’t run Windows 7. Indeed, the Windows Team Blog notes that as of April 2010, 81% of netbooks sold in the U.S. were pre-installed with the new OS, many with the stripped-down Windows 7 Starter edition.

Finally, some small business owners may rightly worry that their old programs and applications won’t run on Windows 7. But here, too, Microsoft has reached out to these users with an XP emulator that allows it to run some of these older apps directly from the Windows 7 desktop.

Change can certainly be scary. But the prospect of getting left behind – and without any kind of tech support – should be a lot scarier to home and business users alike.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at