Report: Microsoft relaxes Windows downgrade rules

Clues point to late October release of Windows 7, possible change in XP support

Users will be able to downgrade a Windows 7 PC to the corresponding version of Vista -- Business or Ultimate -- or to Windows XP Professional, said TechARP. Computer makers will be able to do the same for customers at their request, just as they do now for Vista PC buyers.

Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 7 will come with downgrade rights to either Vista or XP. "This is not the first time that Microsoft has offered downgrade rights to a version other than its immediate predecessor," a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

All these new downgrade options, both for Vista and Windows 7, will expire six months after the general availability of Windows 7. In the section that detailed Windows 7's downgrade rights, TechARP said that Microsoft will later change the rules to allow downgrades to Vista, not to XP.

Although Microsoft has historically set time limits on downgrades after a new operating system's launch, in the case of Windows XP it extended the deadline several times. Most recently, it told OEMs that they can continue to obtain XP media -- a critical component of the downgrade option -- through July 2009.

If TechARP's information is accurate, Microsoft will have to push out even further the XP media availability date. The Microsoft spokeswoman hinted as much. When asked if there would be a new cut-off date for XP media availability, and if so, what that date would be, she said, "We do not have a hard date at this time."

Other bits from both the leaked HP memo and TechARP's information may provide a clue to the expected release date of Windows 7. The former said that XP downgrades would be allowed through April 30, 2010, while the latter claimed that Microsoft would allow downgrades for six months after Windows 7 hits the street. Putting the two together points toward a late-October 2009 launch for the new operating system.

If true, Windows 7 might be released at about the same time of year as Windows XP. That operating system officially launched Oct. 25, 2001.

TechARP also noted that while Microsoft has set April 14 as the end of mainstream support for Windows XP, the company is reconsidering that date. "Microsoft is currently evaluating feedback from OEMs and end users and will provide follow-up communication regarding this evaluation by the first week of April," the site claimed.

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Tags MicrosoftWindows 7windows xpWindows Vistawindows downgrade

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

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