On the eve of Microsoft pulling the plug on support for Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 2, company officials announced they are extending downgrade rights for Windows XP.
Originally, downgrade rights -- the sanctioned ability of Windows volume buyers to apply their new Windows licenses to older versions of the product -- were due to expire around 2011 for Windows XP. But on July 12, the Softies gave XP yet another reprieve.
Users who purchase new PCs installed with Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate will now be able to downgrade to XP up until January 15, 2015 (for Windows 7 Professional) or January of 2020 (for Windows 7 Ultimate), according to Computerworld's calculations.
The way Microsoft is phrasing the new end of life dates for XP is less clear-cut. The Microsoft "Blogging Windows" blog, in a July 12 post, explained it this way:
"(W)e have decided to extend downgrade rights to Windows XP Professional beyond the previously planned end date at Windows 7 SP1. This will help maintain consistency for downgrade rights throughout the Windows 7 lifecycle. As a result, the OEM versions of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate will continue to include downgrade rights to the similar versions of Windows Vista or Windows XP Professional. Going forward, businesses can continue to purchase new PCs and utilize end user downgrade rights to Windows XP or Windows Vista until they are ready to use Windows 7."
I asked the Softies whether Computerworld's new deadline dates for XP downgrade-rights expiration is accurate. No word back yet.
Update (July 13): Still can't get an actual date from the Softies. Via a Microsoft spokesperson: "People just won’t be able to buy a new PC with XP downgrade rights once Windows 7 stops being sold on new PCs -- which is 2 years after whatever's next comes out. So that is the closest we can get to an actual date; anything beyond that would be soothsaying. "
Update 2: My colleague Ed Bott does his own calculations and thinks 2015 is in the ballpark as the XP downgrade expiration date.
Microsoft defines downgrade righs as "an OEM’s ability to generally offer downgrade facilitation options (e.g., preinstalling Windows XP Professional on a new PC that includes end-user rights for Windows 7 Professional)."
Why is Microsoft extending the nine-year-old XP's life yet again? From a July 12 post on the company's "Blogging Windows" blog:
"While the majority of customers are actively transitioning to Windows 7, and PC manufacturers are focused on delivering PCs and devices with Windows 7 preinstalled, our business customers have told us that the removing end-user downgrade rights to Windows XP Professional could be confusing, given the rights change would be made for new PCs preinstalled with Windows 7 and managing a hybrid environment with PCs that have different end-user rights based on date of purchase would be challenging to track."
In other XP-related date news, July 13 is the end-of-support date for XP SP2 and Windows 2000. After that date, there will be no more paid or extended support by Microsoft for either operating system, meaning there won't be any more updates and fixes (security or otherwise) released for these Windows variants. Microsoft has been advising users to move to Windows XP SP3 or Windows 7 if they want to run a Microsoft-support client Windows release, going forward.