Friday, April 25, 2008

Keeping old windows open

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Keeping old windows open

Officially, Microsoft won’t let PC makers install the Windows XP operating system on computers they sell after June 30–a move designed to get businesses to upgrade to Vista. But the three biggest PC makers have found a way to keep selling the old system.

Here’s how it works: Microsoft has a “downgrade rights program” that lets people who buy an operating system downgrade to an older version. You have to buy Vista, but when you do, you’ve also bought the right to run XP (or Windows 2000 or Windows 95) instead. It’s no skin off Microsoft’s back – provided the program doesn’t become a PR nightmare – because it still counts as a Vista sale. Businesses that aren’t ready to upgrade to Vista get to keep running the operating system they want.

H-P, Dell and Lenovo all intend to keep selling XP this way. A Dell spokesman tells us that his company will pre-install XP on some of its models free of charge, and then send along a DVD with Vista on it. He says the length of time Dell offers the program will depend on how long Microsoft lets it continue. He adds that the plan is “a bit dynamic.”

An H-P spokeswoman tells us her company plans to offer business customers the downgrade option through July 30, 2009. H-P will also sell computers with XP installed and Vista included on a disk. A Lenovo spokesman confirms that his company will sell PCs with the downgrade option, but says he doesn’t know the specifics of the plan.

A Microsoft spokeswoman tells us that the software giant will stop making XP available to PC makers after January 2009. At that point, PC makers can keep selling the copies they’ve already bought. But once they run out, they won’t be able to get any more.

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