Microsoft Windows XP Users Can Keep Downgrade Rights

Microsoft is letting Windows XP Professional users keep their downgrade rights for the life cycle of Windows 7. Downgrade rights would ordinarily have ended on July 12 with the availability of the Windows 7 SP1 beta.

Windows XP has been given a reprieve by Microsoft-at least, when it comes to users' ability to downgrade to the popular but aging operating system. Originally slated to terminate within 18 months of Windows 7's general release, or the availability of Windows 7 Service Pack 1-a beta of which appeared July 12-end-user downgrade rights for Windows XP have now been extended.

The Windows 7 SP1 beta features only minor fixes, the majority of them already being available through Windows Update.

Brandon LeBlanc, a spokesperson for Microsoft, wrote July 12 on The Windows Blog, "Our business customers have told us that 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."

In order to compensate for that, Microsoft will apparently extend downgrade rights for Windows XP Professional beyond the Windows 7 SP1 milestone to throughout the Windows 7 life cycle.

"The OEM versions of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate will continue to include downgrade rights to similar versions of Windows Vista and Windows XP Professional," LeBlanc wrote. "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."

That doesn't stop the bell tolling for Windows XP, however. Support for Windows XP SP2 ends July 12, necessitating an upgrade to Windows XP SP3 for anyone wanting to stay with the platform instead of upgrading. And despite its longstanding position as a favored operating system among both customers and the enterprise, extended support for Windows XP SP3 will still end in April 2014, with no updates or patches after that point.

What's more-and, die-hard XP fans, this is the part where you pull out your handkerchiefs and proceed to weep-research company Gartner has suggested that a general lack of XP support from ISVs will start around the end of 2011, with a support "XP danger zone" developing at the end of 2012.

Microsoft has been using its Worldwide Partner Conference, held July 11 to 15 in Washington, to promote Windows 7. In encouraging any reluctant attendees to upgrade to its newest operating system, Microsoft executives have repeatedly insisted that Windows XP was built in a bygone era, and is therefore a relic increasingly unable to handle today's changed, cloud-centric tech landscape.