Microsoft is sending some very confusing signals about Windows Vista -- the latest of which it issued via a statement on October 3.
The Register reported on October 2 that Microsoft was going to extend again the date until which PC makers would be allowed to continue to offer Windows users "downgrade rights," enabling them to switch from Vista to XP on new machines. The Reg said Microsoft had moved the downgrade cut-off date from January 31, 2009 to July 31, 2009.
I asked Microsoft about the Reg's report and got this statement, via a company spokesperson:
"As more customers make the move to Windows Vista, we want to make sure that they are making that transition with confidence and that it is as smooth as possible. Providing downgrade media for a few more months is part of that commitment, as is the Windows Vista Small Business Assurance program (available in the U.S. only), which provides 1-on-1, customized support for our small business customers."
In other words, the Reg's story was correct.
The spokesperson sent further clarification:
"What’s changing is Microsoft is giving six more months where it will provide downgrade media for XP Professional for OEMs and system builders to provide to their customers who purchase Windows Vista Ultimate and Business editions – (which the company figures will be) largely going to be small businesses since that’s the audience that would want/use XP Pro. So it’s the same old downgrade right thing that was in the EULA (End User License Agreement) before; it's just Microsoft is providing the media to partners a few months more."
"The same caveat with providing the downgrade media as before applies, which is OEMs and system builders don’t have to do so if they don’t want – it’s their business decision to make."
Microsoft has extended XP's end-of-life date before. In Apri 2008 l, Microsoft officials said the company was not going to extend again the date on which it required OEMs to stop preloading XP on new machines. That date was June 30, 2008. Microsoft did say that system builders, a k a white box vendors, would be allowed to continue to preload XP on new systems until January 31, 2009. OEMs and system builders both were OK'd to continue preloading XP on new ultra-low-cost systems through 2010, as many of those systems were and are incapable of running Vista.
Bottom line: Even though Microsoft is maintaining publicly that Vista is finally ready for prime time, it is allowing PC makers to continue to offer customers XP. So what's a user to believe? Is Microsoft really standing behind Vista? And if it's not -- but instead is doing what customers really want (while simply giving lip-service to Vista's readiness -- is that still a positive?