Comments by Steve Ballmer at a press conference in Europe on Thursday has led to speculation that Microsoft is reconsidering its 30 June deadline to stop selling most new Windows XP licences. However, a Microsoft PR spokeswoman has said there is no change to the current plan.

"Our plan for Windows XP availability is unchanged. We're confident that's the right thing to do based on the feedback we've heard from our customers and partners," the spokeswoman said, reading from a Microsoft statement.

Ballmer's comments at a press conference at Louvain-la-Neuve University in Belgium led to a flurry of reports that Microsoft may be considering an extension of its deadline.

"If customer feedback varies we can always wake up smarter, but right now we have a plan for end-of-life for new XP shipments," Ballmer said, according to Reuters. Microsoft did not have a transcript of the event, but the spokeswoman from Waggener Edstrom said the report seemed accurate.

The spokeswoman said Microsoft is aware that some customers are pushing for an extension to the deadline - more than 160,000 people have signed a "Save XP" petition launched by Techworld's sister publication, Infoworld, for example. But the company has also done its own research among partners and customers and feels that "the dates are right," she said.

"We feel we've made the right accommodations for customers in certain segments who may need more time to transition to Windows Vista," she said. "But as Steve noted, we maintain a constant stance of listening to our customers and our partners. That's what is guiding our plan, and will continue to guide us going forward."

The "accommodations" refer to several exceptions that Microsoft has made to the 30 June 30 deadline. For example, companies that make volume purchases of Vista Business or Vista Ultimate can ask their vendor to "downgrade" their licence to Windows XP. Microsoft has also made exceptions for the emerging class of small, ultra-low-cost PCs, and it will continue to provide Windows XP Starter Edition for PCs sold in emerging markets.

Retailers and PC vendors can also continue to sell any backlog of Windows XP licences that they bought before the 30 June deadline. Beyond those exceptions, most new Windows licences purchased after 30 June will be for Windows Vista.