While the consumer and enthusiast are now happily moving to Windows 7, businesses are still chugging along on Windows XP. This would present a problem for businesses buying and installing new computers in the workplace if not for the Windows XP downgrade program available to OEM Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate SKUs.
Originally, these downgrade rights were to disappear once Microsoft ships the first Service Pack in 2011, but upon the release of the SP1 beta, Microsoft announced that it would extend the XP downgrade period through to January 2020 for the Professional and January 2015 for the Ultimate edition (dates according to Computerworld).
"This will help maintain consistency for downgrade rights throughout the Windows 7 lifecycle," wrote Microsoft spokesman Brandon LeBlanc, in an entry on the company blog. "As a result, the OEM versions of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate will continue to include downgrade rights to the similar versions of Windows Vista or Windows XP Professional. Going forward, businesses can continue to purchase new PCs and utilize end user downgrade rights to Windows XP or Windows Vista until they are ready to use Windows 7. Enabling such rights throughout the Windows 7 lifecycle will make it easier for customers as they plan deployments to Windows 7."
Microsoft made this change to help ease confusion for businesses getting new PCs but aren't able to make the switch just yet. With the extension of the downgrade rights, Microsoft will still be able to sell a Windows license and businesses can still run Windows XP.
LeBlanc added, "Our business customers have told us that the removing end-user downgrade rights to Windows XP Professional could be confusing, given the rights change would be made for new PCs preinstalled with Windows 7 and managing a hybrid environment with PCs that have different end-user rights based on date of purchase would be challenging to track."