Microsoft has gone public with a piece of its Windows 7 to XP downgrade guarantee that it refused to make official until yesterday: The end date.
Volume licensees who buy Windows are provided automatically with guaranteed downgrade rights to previous versions of Windows. A Windows 7 volume licensee has the right to downgrade to Vista, Windows XP or other previous versions of Windows, according to Microsoft's policies.
Earlier this year, Microsoft officials refused to confirm a report which claimed that the company planned to limit the length of time it would allow users to downgrade from Windows 7 to XP to six months after Windows 7 shipped. The leaked memo pegged that date at April 2010, which both Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard (the OEM mentioned in the memo) declined to confirm.
On June 17, however, Microsoft officials told Computerworld that the downgrade period during which users will be allowed to move from Windows 7 to XP is going to end, at the latest, in April 2011, which is 18 months after the October 22, 2009 general availability date for Windows 7.
A Microsoft spokesperson provided the publication with the following statement:
"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, whichever is sooner, and if a service pack is developed."
(Oh no! Here we go again with the "when and if a service pack is developed." Forget the fact that there already have been sightings of what is believed to be early leaked SP 1 builds for Windows 7. Microsoft tried hide the fact that a Vista SP1 was in the wings; sadly, it looks like the same strategy will be in place with Windows 7 -- in spite of the fact that many business users still use a first SP as a guideline for their deployment plans.)
Back to the 18-month cap. While many can't imagine wanting or needing to downgrade from 7 to XP, for some business users, this ability is a necessity. A substantial number of businesses are still running XP and aren't keen on making an abrupt or wholesale move to a brand-new operating system, especially before their custom line-of-business applications are certified as compatible.
I'm curious as to why Microsoft is capping downgrade rights with XP -- other than for the obvious reason that it is trying to push users to move off of its eight-year-old operating system. I've asked the company for further comment and will add it to this post if and when I receive it.