Microsoft volume license customers traditionally get downgrade rights – the ability to load an earlier version of Microsoft software on a system if they licensed a later version – and it is frequently used by larger enterprises to maintain uniform software versions for improved manageability. OEMs get similar rights for some Microsoft operating systems including Windows Vista Business and Ultimate (see the January 2007 Download Rights Chart from the Microsoft Volume Licensing page) to enable better service for larger customers. However, it is unusual for OEMS to, as a matter of course, include a copy of an earlier operating system system in the retail box as some major OEMs such as Fujitsu and HP have started doing for Vista machines. So what changed?
A Microsoft representative confirmed there were changes made over the summer to make it easier for customers to downgrade to XP. Under Microsoft’s licensing terms for Vista, buyers of Vista Business and Vista Ultimate Edition have always had the right to downgrade to XP, but in practice this could be challenging. In June, Microsoft changed its practices to allow computer makers that sell pre-activated Vista machines to order Windows XP discs that could be included inside the box with PCs, or shipped to customers without requiring additional activation.
I believe that’s called “pushback” in the vernacular. Note also that this is in addition to machines that continue to be sold preloaded with XP, although Microsoft wants to end that by January 31, 2008. It will be interesting to see if they can stick to that notion.
Vista certainly seems to be taking a lot of public hits lately with some high profile complaints about gaming being better under XP, various glitches, more glitches, and yet more glitches. Then there are the multiple stories about businesses slowing up their already slow Vista adoption plans. And such a target rich environment attracts the professional humorists to pile on with satire like Microsoft Reveals Windows Vista SP1 Will Install XP.
So how bad is it? Millions of PCs are going out the door with Vista installed, so I don’t think we’re talking Edsel (or Windows ME) here, but there’s no indication that the public relations pain is going stop any time soon. Presumably a creditable SP1 will help.