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June 22, 2009

Microsoft reveals Windows 7 to XP downgrade rights plan

Posted by David Hunter at 11:59 PM ET.

Last week Microsoft revealed to selected members of the press their plan for downgrades to Windows 7. Probably least interesting is that for ordinary PC buyers:

According to Microsoft, those buying the Professional or Ultimate editions of Windows 7 with new PCs from OEMs will have the option to downgrade to the XP Professional edition only, provided that the PCs get purchased before April 22, 2011.

A Microsoft spokesperson explained in an e-mail on Wednesday that the XP downgrade option will be in effect for "PCs that ship within 18 months following the general availability of Windows 7 [namely, before April 22, 2011] or until the release of a Windows 7 service pack, whichever is sooner and if a service pack is developed."

I expect that most consumers don’t care and that this is mostly of interest to small businesses that have some compelling reason to stick with XP for a while. Most usage of downgrade rights in my experience is by large enterprises with volume licenses and IT shops that install custom preloads on their PCs. For them, it’s business as usual:

The rules are a little different for those buying Windows 7 through Microsoft’s Windows Volume Licensing program. If they pay extra for Microsoft’s Software Assurance program, they have "full flexibility to upgrade or downgrade their PCs to older or newer versions of Windows," according to the Microsoft spokesperson.

The ability to downgrade Windows is of particular importance to organizations that need to run older so-called "legacy" applications. These organizations may use custom-built applications running on XP and may need more time before upgrading the OS, either for technical reasons, budgetary reasons or both.

XP is still the primary Windows OS choice among enterprise users. Just 10 percent of enterprises switched from XP to Vista, according to Forrester Research.

Nobody ever got fired by sticking with Windows XP. We’ll see if and when Windows 7 changes the enterprise rules.

Filed under Microsoft, OS - Client, Obsolescence, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

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