MS plugs downgrade option as XP deadline nears

Businesses that aren’t quite ready to deploy the Vista operating system as of the June 30 expiration date can continue to use XP, said Microsoft Corp. in a letter released to its customers this week.

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Organizations using Windows Vista Business or Vista Ultimate can take advantage of “downgrade rights,” which allow IT departments to essentially buy the Vista license and legally downgrade to XP. When they are ready, they can revert back to Vista without paying for an upgrade.

This is useful for organizations, said Elliot Katz, windows product manager with Microsoft Canada Co., because different IT departments have varying deployment schedules. “What is really beautiful about this process, is they actually own the licence to Windows Vista,” he said.

The downgrade rights are also useful for small business owners who may still have applications that are not compatible with Vista. Until vendors release updated versions of their applications, customers can continue to use XP, said Katz.

Katz is expecting that most customers won’t use their downgrade rights, but said the company is offering it simply because they always have and because there is a “segment of customers who will want to downgrade.”

The letter was sent by senior vice-president of online services and Windows business group, Bill Veghte, to Microsoft customers and was also posted on the company’s site as well. The purpose was to address customer questions around Windows XP’s looming expiration date, and convey the Windows roadmap moving forward.

An area of concern for customers, said Katz, was whether support for XP would be available after June 30. The letter clarifies that Microsoft will continue to offer support until April 2014.

Another frequently asked question from customers is whether they can still buy PCs with the XP operating system. Although, Microsoft will stop selling XP as a retailed packaged product and stop licensing it directly to OEMs, those interested in obtaining XP on a PC, can still do so as long as retailers and OEMs have it in their inventory.

As for the roadmap, Microsoft plans to have a “predictable Windows release schedule” every three years, said Katz. The next version of the operating system, Windows 7 (that won’t be the name upon release) will be available in 2010. That’s three years after Vista’s broad availability. The goal is to allow customers to predict and plan their operating system deployments, said Katz.

The letter insists there’s been important progress with Vista and “contains significant advances in many areas” from security to support for next-generation hardware. The company has put effort into resolving the compatibility issues that plagued the release and now the “situation is fundamentally different,” the letter claimed.

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