Dell: We're not charging more for XP downgrades

Dell Tuesday denied that it has boosted the price of what it charges customers for "downgrading" to Windows XP from Vista when they purchase new desktops and laptops in the company's popular Inspiron consumer line.

"We have not increased the pricing, nor are we charging US$150 for Windows XP," said Dell spokesman David Frink , reacting to a Computerworld story published Monday . "For customers who order a system with Windows XP Professional via the downgrade rights program, Dell charges $20 to ... pre-install Windows XP Pro with all drivers on the system, include a reinstall CD and include a Vista Business install DVD, plus a CD with Vista drivers."

The $130 difference between the $20 that Dell charges for the downgrade and the $150 price the company advertises on its Web site is what it costs buyers to upgrade Vista from the standard Home Premium edition and the Business edition, said Frink.

"Microsoft mandates that customers who want to downgrade to XP must purchase the license to Vista Business or Vista Ultimate," Frink said. "[That's] typically about a $10 premium, though some retail outlets charge more."

Some, in fact, charge less., for example, prices the "system builder" versions of Vista Home Premium at $99.99 and Vista Business at $139.99, a $40 difference. The online retailer prices the full "retail" editions, meanwhile, at $222.99 for Home Premium and $278.99 for Business, a $56 difference.

Price differences between Vista Home Premium and Vista Business on other e-tailers are similar to Newegg's. On, for example, the difference between system builder versions of the two editions is just $30, while the difference between full retail prices is $47.

As Frink noted, Vista Business and Vista Ultimate are the only generally-available editions that allow downgrades, and they can be downgraded only to Windows XP Professional. Under Microsoft's licensing terms, the less-expensive XP Home can't be installed as a downgrade, nor can downgrades be applied from Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium.

Frink declined to get specific when asked why Dell expanded its XP downgrade program to include Inspiron laptops and desktops, which it did in August. Last June, the company said it would not offer the option on Inspiron-branded models, claiming that Microsoft set the categories of machines that it was allowed to sell with XP preinstalled.

"We're simply providing a wide range of options," Frink said today. He confirmed that Dell had asked Microsoft for its okay to expand the downgrade program to Inspiron PCs.

Frink also declined to say whether more of Dell's customers are asking for XP, and if that was why it had added the option to the Inspiron 1525 notebook and 530 and 530s desktops. "The overwhelming majority of our customers are getting their systems shipped with Vista," he said. "We don't provide specific breakouts on sales or attach-rate figures."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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