Microsoft backtracks, extends XP availability to 2011

On Tuesday, Michael Silver of Gartner took Microsoft to the woodshed over the company’s decision to let computer makers sell PCs with Windows XP for only six months after Windows 7 debuts.

Silver blasted the idea as a “real mess,” and said that it would make it more difficult for companies to manage their PCs, and more expensive to upgrade them to Windows 7 down the road.

Because of Windows 7’s Oct. 22 launch date, the six-month cap meant that OEMs would have to stop shipping PCs “downgraded” from Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate to Windows XP Professional at or around April 22, 2010.

That policy put enterprises in a bind, Silver argued yesterday. “For an organization that’s trying to skip Vista, that means they really need to buy new PCs that they need to run on XP, and want to upgrade later to Windows 7, by April 21, 2010,” Silver said.

The alternative, said Silver: After April 2010, companies that wanted to stick with XP for a while longer would have to buy new PCs with Vista Business or Vista Ultimate, which do have downgrade rights to XP, then downgrade to the old OS. Later, those companies would have to buy an upgrade license from XP to Windows 7, essentially paying twice.

Hours after Silver blasted the plan, however, Microsoft backed off the six-month limit, and confirmed a new policy.

“Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate customers will have the option to downgrade to Windows XP Professional from PCs that ship within 18 months following the general availability of Windows 7 or until the release of a Windows 7 service pack, whichever is sooner, and if a service pack is developed,” a company spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Microsoft also slipped in a reminder about XP’s limited lifespan in its e-mailed announcement. “Windows XP is currently in the extended support phase and Microsoft encourages customers to migrate to either Windows Vista or Windows 7 as soon as possible,” the spokeswoman said yesterday.

As per its lifecycle policy, Microsoft will officially retire Windows XP, halting all patch development, including security updates, in April 2014.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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