Those who buy HP Windows 8 PCs and decide they want to downgrade to Windows 7 are in for a shock: Consumers will be on their own if there are Windows-related problems on the machines, and HP won't offer support.
Update: After this post was written, HP has changed its policy on downgrades from Windows 8 to Windows 7. HP will now support Windows 7 on computers that have been downgraded from Windows 8. HP says:
Customers can downgrade to Windows 7 and you will remain protected by HP product warranties.
However, HP has not tested all Windows 8 platforms for Windows 7 and we may not have your particular drivers available.
Computerworld's Gregg Keizer first reported HP's old policy, which can be found in a Windows 8 FAQ on HP's Web site.
Downgrade rights lets customers revert to an earlier version of Windows at no cost. Typically, enterprises get downgrade right when they buy new machines. As for consumers, only those who buy Windows 8 Pro get downgrade rights.
HP says that if a consumer downgrades from Windows 8 to Windows 7, HP won't support Windows on it, although it will still support the underlying hardware itself. The HP FAQ warns:
"HP does not recommend downgrading on any HP consumer desktop and notebook products. After October 26, 2012, HP consumer desktop and notebook products will ship only with Windows 8. Windows 7 will not be supported on these new platforms, and no drivers, apps, or Windows 7 content will be available through HP. If users choose to downgrade their HP consumer desktop or notebook system, HP will continue to support the hardware but if there is an issue where HP diagnostics are required OR it is determined that the loaded software or upgrade operating system is causing the issue, HP may suggest returning the system to the original Windows 8 OS that shipped with the computer."
In other words, if you run into trouble on Windows 7 on the machines, you're on your own.
Typically, downgrade rights aren't much of an issue with Windows PCs. But Windows Vista caused so many problems that some users downgraded to XP. Windows 7 was well-received, though, and downgrading wasn't an issue.
It's too early to know whether Windows 8 will generate a backlash like Windows Vista did. But if buyers of HP Windows 8 Pro machines decide to downgrade to Windows 7, they're on their own.