Windows XP Downgrades Get Another Reprieve
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In a reversal of its earlier stance, Microsoft officials confirmed that customers will be able to downgrade from Windows 7 to Windows XP for a year and a half after the new system ships, or until the first Service Pack drops -- whichever comes first.
While some industry observers the modified downgrade policy is a change for the better, at least one analyst says Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) still hasn't enough to provide options for enterprises.
The downgrade option is also not available to all Windows 7 users: Downgrade rights apply to purchasers of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate, so the option isn't available to customers who buy Windows 7 Home Premium.
Microsoft first disclosed that Windows 7 customers would have downgrade rights to XP -- instead of just to Window Vista -- back in April.
Previously, the company had set the cutoff date for downgrading to XP at six months after Windows 7's ship date, which is currently set for October 22. That would have cut off availability of XP downgrades on April 30, 2010.
Now that's been extended. The latest that Microsoft will enable XP downgrades will be the end of April 2011.
"Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate customers will have the option to downgrade to Windows XP Professional from PCs that ship within 18 months following the general availability of Windows 7 or until the release of a Windows 7 service pack (SP), whichever is sooner and if an SP is developed," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.
Rolling back the clock
There are reasons why customers might want to weigh their options when it comes to keeping Windows 7 or downgrading to XP. One significant shortcoming: mainstream support for XP expired on April 14. Microsoft's "extended support" is still available for the operating system, although that includes only security patches for free -- other support requires payment. That offering runs until August 8, 2014.
While the newest policy change may please some customers, it doesn't address the needs of many, according to Michael Silver, research vice president at Gartner.
"It's still bad ... they didn't fix it right," Silver told InternetNews.com. "There's still no firm end date, so companies won't know when downgrade rights expire."
That can play havoc with companies that need to meticulously plan, make preparations for, and deploy Windows 7.
So what should Microsoft do?
"They can give a firm date that's far enough out that organizations can get their applications tested," Silver said. "A date would be better so that customers would be able to deploy Windows 7 by the time downgrade rights expire."
Paul DeGroot, research vice president for channels and licensing at Directions on Microsoft, takes a different view on the latest change.
"The six-month timeframe doesn't fit anybody's time scale," DeGroot told InternetNews.com. "With 18 months, a lot of the problem has been removed."
Still, the new policy's uncertainty is a problem for him, too.
"I would have liked to have seen Microsoft say [expiration] is whichever comes later, because we don't know when SP1 is going to come out," DeGroot said.