Microsoft to simplify downgrades from Vista to XP

Microsoft to simplify downgrades from Vista to XP

Summary: Microsoft is simplifying the processes via which its PC-maker partners will be able to provide "downgrade" rights from Windows Vista to Windows XP for their customers.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

Microsoft is simplifying the processes via which its PC-maker partners will be able to provide "downgrade" rights from Windows Vista to Windows XP for their customers.

Microsoft will implement the first of the policy changes for its Gold Certified (top-tier) OEM partners within the next couple of weeks. The company will streamline downgrade-rights policies and procedures for the broader channel somewhat later, said John Ball, general manager of Microsoft's U.S. Systems Group.

Under current licensing terms, Microsoft allows customers buying PCs preloaded with Windows Vista Ultimate and Vista Business to roll back to Windows XP until they are ready to make the move to Vista. For OEMs, the process via which these rights can be activated has been quite cumbersome, Ball acknowledged.

Under the current rules, OEMs must call about and file for each and every machine the license keys required to downgrade from Vista to XP. But Microsoft is planning to move to a new policy which will allow its top 170 OEM partners to submit these keys online for groups of machines, which will save them time and reduce complexity, Ball said.

Microsoft is working on ways to allow the rest of the channel to take advantage of these simplified downgrade procedures, but is still in the midst of hashing out the details, Ball said. He didn't have a timetable for when Microsoft will make its more liberal downgrade-rights policies available to the rest of its PC partners.

Microsoft doesn't view the popularity of user requests to downgrade from Vista to XP as a ding against Vista, Ball emphasized. In fact, at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver in July, Microsoft plans to evanglize Vista to its OEM and system-builder partners, and play up Vista's momentum as proof that system vendors should get on the Vista bandwagon, Ball said.

Ball said Microsoft officials will highlight data meant to counteract the impression by some that Vista isn't doing well in the marketplace. Among the datapoints Microsoft will emphasize, according to Ball:

  • Ninety-nine percent of all Windows PCs sold at retail are being sold with Vista preloaded
  • Seventy-eight percent of PCs preloaded with Vista are shipping with "premium" SKUs (like Vista Ultimate and Vista Home Premium)
  • Microsoft is experiencing 21 percent fewer support calls with Vista than it did with Windows XP
  • Fewer security issues that need patching with Vista than XP (five Vista issues in the first 90 days vs. 18 with XP in the first 90 days)
  • Device compatibility is high and getting higher daily

All this sounds good on (virtual) paper. Like my ZDNet blogging colleague Ed Bott, I wouldn't go so far as to call Vista "Windows Me2." But I know I still wouldn't want to be a Vista salesperson....

Topics: Windows, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Device compatibility is high and getting higher daily


    Yeah, there's hardware running in half-assed mode, but running at full feature-full performance isn't even close to being there yet.

    Those with 8800GTX cards, for one example, know what I mean.
    • Is that MS's fault?

      I would blame the hardware vendors for slacking the last 5 years it was in development. What kind of morons are they considering there have been dozens and dozens of beta builds before vista finally came out.
      • Erm

        In case you forget, around 2-ish years ago Microsoft pretty much completely redid Vista/Longhorn. I guess the hardware vendors were weren't able to redo their drivers to work with Vista in time and are probably upset that their world was changed in mid-flight.

        I wonder whose fault it was for having to redo Vista? Hmmm, I guess it must have been Creative Labs, nVidia, ATI, and everyone else who makes hardware which has issues with Vista. Not!
        • erm....

          it was around 3ish years ago now, and are you trying to say that 2ish to 3ish years was not enough time for these vendors? Many, if not all of these vendors exist because of Microsoft so you'd like to think they'd give it the good old college try. They had unprecedented access to the code, tools and microsoft for that 2ish to 3ish years. My bet is that rewriting the code on the server 2003 kernel did not change everything related to device drivers either. It's still the same Vista, only with a different kernel (from the same family) and a new security oriented coding method. I doubt everything changed for these vendors but I'm not sure. I have no problem admitting that. Still, they had plenty of time. There have been those that worked for large OEMs post on here and they pointed out it was the vendors at fault. They've had it too easy for too long and just weren't active enough in addressing this new OS (which people like yourself had been screaming for, for a long time. More secure, new kernel, not just XP refreshed etc. etc. )<br>
          Either way you look at it, what is your motive to post what you did? Because you hate Microsoft or you truely believe the vendors didn't have enough time and resources to nail this? You are simply unbelievable at times with your sneering attitude on things. <br>
          see ya, wouldn't want to be ya.
          • Agree

            [i]My bet is that rewriting the code on the server 2003 kernel did not change everything related to device drivers either.[/i]

            I've installed enough XP drivers in Vista to confirm this.
          • Conspicuous by its absence

            Is any mention from you of VCP. A fun Microsoft technology that makes it harder .

            Also, you may have missed this little comment from Cisco: [i]"A Cisco spokesperson says the company believed it would be best to wait until the final version of Vista was available to start working on the VPN Client upgrade to avoid having to rewrite code due to late Vista changes."[/i]

            Who would have thought. Microsoft making such late changes that it would be best to wait on writing drivers. Dang, I guess that must be the fault of the poor saps who are too clueless to code in anticipation of Microsoft's code changes.
          • Cisco is hardly the only (or most notable) one.

            Nvidia and Creative both made these claims in late 2006. These were lame excuses to many people, particularly those that looked at other vendors who were having much better success.

            The positive spin is that both Nvidia and Creative have alienated a large segment of the tech community with their laziness.
          • Facts, please...

            I did not get it - are you a software engineer who is writing drivers for MS Vista?

            Maybe you are a manager that oversees MS Vista driver project?

            Could you give us some facts about NVidia & Creative being lazy?

            I am in embedded avionics SW
            Solid Water
          • It's a NO Brainer! ;)

            YOU MAY BE A NO BRAINER!
            Broken code is broken code. MS didn't do what they should have done in the first place, sh*t can the whole mess and start from scratch. You have folders with no purpose, left in for what? To remind people Vista is just a poor upgrade from XP to an already previously inferior system?

            Then we have people like you who take MS's words as gospel truth and start criticizing Companies like Cisco, Nvidia , and Creative, when they've always provided the best drivers in the business. Who's Deaf, Dumb, and Blind here? Maybe YOU!

            It doesn't take a Genius to figure out that MS has another ME2 on their hands. The only way to really fix it is speed up work on Vienna, to replace it. Before the "Dead Rising" on their dying game console comes out devours them!

            They should have stuck to Operating Systems (at least they know little about them), instead of thinking they have any clue about manufacturing hardware!!!
          • no brainer

            Vista was rewritten starting in 2004 on the server2003 kernel using a much more robust component and security lifecycle model. Driver incompatibilities and program incompatibilities are from those products not written to spec. Windows programs have rarely be written to Microsoft's ubiquitous documentation since 3.1. That's just a fact and now programs must follow programming guidelines for the platform or they won't work. Simple as that. As for drivers, they are appearing more and more and nvidea for example has out a line of GPUs supporting directX10 now that are Vista ready. DirectX 10 games haven't even hit the shelves as far as I know. <br>
            I'm sure being an ABMer is fun, but Vista is a great OS that is decidedly much more secure, even according even to the anti-ms liberal press, and the telling facts here are that Microsoft has sold more versions of Vista than it did XP in the same time frame. OEMs are stepping up their nex gen machines and most all of them have directX10 support and santa rosa technology...same specs as a macbook, made by the same companies (namely one in Taiwan) and hopefully DRM will go away so it can stop plauging Apple and Microsoft. Linux can't play protected content, even though Linus Torvalds spoke in favor of DRM as useful technology.
            I think Vista, looked at seriously w/o the "DRM that Microsoft apparently created??" is a great OS with a great set of foundation classes from which to build next gen apps. Silverlight is a great example of a platform built on Vista technology.
            I still am running XP but have worked with vista machines at a few sites and have seen little problems...besides old programs that write everthing inside of a system directory. So there is some niche need to have XP, hence why Microsoft is doing this, but that will fade away just like it did for XP and win2Kpro and before that win98 and before that win95..remember the incompatibilities with win95? Turned out to be a very good OS however and was extremely popular. <br>
            Every OS needs time to work out the bugs. Most linux distros that run in perpetual beta don't have the media's focus to show how God awful they really are, but looking at secunia over the last few years, I am sure I'm seeing no better record from large OSS projects in the bug category. Same from Apple, who has the luxury of taking that commodity hardware (asus machines etc.) and tweaking their software to run well on ONE configuration. Even then we end up with Megapatch after megapatch. Still waiting for the "megapatches" to be released for Vista. When they are, then come back and we'll talk more. <br> Or when Firefox stops moving in the direction of major bloatware and gets back to where it can even be remotely as fast as IE7....we'll talk some more. <br>
          • erm...

            Hardware vendors, probably, were not sure if Microsoft not to decide of change gears again. :-)
            Solid Water
          • Yes, I'm quite sure you are right

            Microsoft partners have no contact with Redmond and it was wise to wait until After the release to start building drivers.
            So you are right. As usual, it was Microsoft's fault. There, that should make you happier.
          • HW Vendors & Microsoft

            "<i>Many, if not all of these vendors exist because of Microsoft </i>"<br><br>You really need to look back into computer history. Many of these companies were around well before Microsoft. A good example... My 1st computer system was an <b>Epson</b> QX-10 running CP/M 80, It didn't have any Microsoft in it yet it still required a graphics adapter, drives, keyboard, monitor, printer, modem (300bps but still a modem). Microsoft could have never materialized yet all the present day hardware vendors likely would still be present because the need would still be there for their product, just a different OS would be in place.

            Hey I don't run Microsoft but I do need all the same hardware..

            Vista....failure for a new generation
          • I was with you....

            right up to your last statement, then your credibility was shot. That's pure ignorance. It doesn't take into account sales figures or the millions of happy customers. If every Windows user running Vista was encountering the horror stories ABMers are trying to propogate and the anti-ms liberal media, don't you think it would be front page news? A lead story on the nightly news? If the unworthiness of Vista were true, every user would have asked for a replacement by now and those 10s of millions of cases would surely have not escaped the media's attention to be sure. <br>
            So we have a very solid and secure OS that is very cutting edge. Yes, to utilize it's full power you need a newer PC. Now that santa rosa machines with 2.4Ghz processors and 800Mhz FSB, Nvidea GPUs that support next gen windows games, i.e. directX 10, are out....the last crop of Vista READY machines are legacy and the full year before Vista had many fact going back up to 5 years there are many models that will run Vista Business w/o Aero. As the ABMers stated, Aero was uneccessary "eye candy" anyway. <br>
            So really, like the XP release, win2K, win98, win95, we are seeing growing pains. The nature of the beast. Same with ANY linux distro (just no media coverage of their failures....the underdog is always treated with kid's gloves by the media, esp Linux which has a very liberal base w/ a very liberal media. <br>
            ABMers would LOVE nothing more than to say Vista is a ME2 and a failure. but nothing points to that at all in real life. The win2K3 kernel is excellent. The component oriented architecture creates a windows that can be updated much more easily and functionality added on the fly at any level. The security lifecycle coding model is also paying big dividends. If you don't like MS, that's fine, but why spread FUD. Vista is a fine OS, the hardware companies are making ALL of their machines to accomodate Vista in a big way....they have for some time but now they are going next gen support...and with many more copies of Vista sold than XP in the same opening 5 months, many fewer support calls and record revenues...i'm not sure where anyone is seeing a "failure". Other than pure ABM hyperbole and envy and hate.
          • "the media's attention"

            Is right where the big money wants it to
            be, and that includes Microsoft's money
            which is the biggest money of all.

            If you don't know that, you don't know
            nuthin. Therefore, anything you say
            amounts to nuthin, or nuthin you say
            amounts to anything. Take your choice.
            Ole Man
          • How many vendors are still having trouble writing Vista drivers?

            If a significant number of [b]major[/b] vendors are having trouble writing drivers for Vista then I'm afraid that [u]does[/u] tend to point the finger at Vista. Trying to argue that they're all somehow inept is only credible if we're talking about a small number, like "one".

            [i]"Many, if not all of these vendors exist because of Microsoft so you'd like to think they'd give it the good old college try. They had unprecedented access to the code, tools and microsoft for that 2ish to 3ish years."[/i]

            I'm sure that every single one of them did a [b]far[/b] sight more than a "good old college try"! But it would seem that 2-3 years of "unprecedented access" were not enough.
          • By that you mean what?

            Which vendors don't have Vista compatible drivers? Name them please. I don't have Vista. I've played with it at a few sites and most everything they need is fine. Some legacy app issues, but those were worked around. Some still need a Vista release. Is that Microsoft's fault. Really, the cases I see are with niche vendors that are never on top of anything. <br>
            On the other hand, some not only have support for the technologies present when Vista released, but subsequent releases of those Microsoft technologies now have driver support.
          • "Is that Microsoft's fault"?

            Of course not! No more than it's GM's
            fault for anything wrong with any of
            their autos. Or Ford's fault for
            anything wrong with their trucks. Or
            Singer's fault for anything wrong with
            their sewing machines. Or Symantec's
            fault for anything wrong with their

            Who, in their right mind, would think
            that it's a manufacturer's fault for
            anything wrong with any of the products
            they produced?
            Ole Man
        • to

          your accusation that i'm on zdnet more than you. I've noticed a zkiwi that posts on up to a dozen blogs at a time. Just yesterday evening I noticed the moniker zwiki had posts on at least 8 seperate blogs. I normally only post to one or two blogs at time....that is my norm, but it can be higher. Not as high as you by any stretch, but you like "flipping off" as many people as you can, at any given time is what I've noticed. I've not once noticed you compliment someone's post or agree with someone. Did you ever notice that the original purpose of these forums was to not just reply to those you disagree with, in a snotty way no less, but to share and bounce ideas around with those you don't as well. Microsoft is having a problem that is affecting their userbase? Would it ever occur to you to post something useful that might help those people, rather than using it for political purposes to post more rhetoric? If you are a software engineer then I would suspect you could provide something useful now and than, rather than posting as a pundit with an anger problem 100% of the time.
          Also, as to my time on here, did it ever occur to you there may be a reason i have time to do this at this particular point in my life? I of course don't care what you believe, but you might consider all of the possibilities that do exist for someone to have a break in their career, w/o it being of their choice and not related to any slack in work or loss of work or standing whatsoever. In fact there are reasons for it in which clients are behind you the whole way and happy you can still keep in touch enough to keep the most important projects moving forward and an eye on things during that time. It's nice to have people that truely care about you and do everything they can to pick up their game for you during those times.
      • I never said it was MS's fault. Put your sword down!

        It doesn't matter WHO's fault it is. The net effect is the inability to be as productive with Vista as with XP.

        That's the bottom line. I don't care about blame. I just care about the productivity.