XP downgrade program may continue to hurt Windows 7

Most people know that come the release of Vista, most businesses chose to hang onto to Windows XP due to lacking reviews of the new OS, and the fact that XP did everything they wanted. Of course, many plan to make the move to the upcoming Windows 7, bypassing Vista entirely, but according to InfoWorld, this could be harder than expected.

An analyst for Gartner, named Michael Silver, said that, "[Microsoft's upgrade policy is] a disaster waiting to happen." The current plans for enterprise upgrading is as follows: businesses that purchase computers before April 23, 2010 that come with Windows 7 pre-installed can choose to downgrade them to Windows XP; at a later date, they can upgrade them to Windows 7, when users are ready to be switched over. However... if a business purchases a PC after April 23, then they can only choose to downgrade to Vista; XP is out of the question. Microsoft's PR company said to InfoWorld, ""It looks like Microsoft hasn't made any announcements around timing for downgrade rights from Windows 7 to Windows XP yet," but apparently they have actually already discussed it with Silver more than once. Additionally, a slide from Microsoft shows their plans, included below (courtesy of InfoWorld):

Two firms, Forrester Research, and Gartner, both recommend that companies wait about a year to a year and a half before upgrading to Windows 7, to ensure maximum compatibility with all drivers and applications, as well as with hardware, but this policy from Microsoft could affect that. If a company chose not to install Vista, it means they have to be quick on the upgrading/downgrading process. However, there is a backup solution; a company can be enrolled in Microsoft's Software Assurance program, which means that (for a fee of about $90 per machine, per year) they can have any operating system they like installed. So, businesses can either buy excess machines now, and have extra XP downgrade licenses in stock, or purchase after the cut-off date and have to force users to use Vista or 7. Regardless of the solution, it will be difficult for IT systems to track which computers have downgrade rights and which don't, Silver notes.

"Well, Microsoft have already done something about this," you say. "What about XP Mode?" Good question. Well, Silver explains that by making businesses use XP Mode with a Windows 7 installation, it means they will essentially have to deploy twice as many operating systems. To add to this, many computers apparently can't run the Virtual PC technology that is required, so it would cause a few problems.

Last of all, Microsoft has yet to announce details about their Technology Guarantee program, which is designed to allow users to upgrade free to a new operating system if they buy a machine after a certain date. Businesses need this information so they can begin planning ahead for the switch, aiming at keeping costs to a minimum. Once this has been announced, then things should become a bit easier.

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