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Microsoft's Windows 7-to-XP downgrade plan a 'real mess,' says analyst

Gartner expert blasts Microsoft over OEM's six-month downgrade window

June 16, 2009 04:01 PM ET

Computerworld - As expected, Microsoft will let computer makers sell PCs with the aged Windows XP for six months after it releases Windows 7, a move that will confuse companies and make it tougher for them to manage their licensing, an analyst said today.

A slide from a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation that Computerworld has seen shows that the company plans to cut off OEMs' XP downgrade rights six months after Windows 7 debuts, limiting computer makers' moves after that to offering Vista-powered PCs.

Only computers that come with Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate allow OEM downgrade rights, according to the slide. That set-up is similar to the one used for Vista, which can be downgraded to XP Professional only from Vista Business and Vista Ultimate. (Vista Business is the closest edition to the upcoming Windows 7 Professional in its feature set.)

What's different with Windows 7, and what could potentially be a nightmarish headache for enterprises, is the six-month limitation on downgrades from Windows 7 to XP.

"Microsoft has never had this sort of limited time for downgrades, and we think it's going to be a real mess," said Michael Silver, an analyst with Gartner.

With the Oct. 22 launch date that Microsoft has already announced -- called "general availability" in its jargon -- OEMs will presumably be allowed to ship XP-equipped systems through most of April, 2010. Previously a leaked Hewlett-Packard memo noted that Microsoft had given that computer maker the green light to offer XP downgrades until next April 30; two months ago, the company refused to confirm the HP memo's contents.



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