Microsoft To Allow Windows 7-To-XP Downgrades Until April 2011

The announcement contradicts earlier speculation that Microsoft was planning to institute a de facto April 2010 deadline for customers that buy new Windows 7 PCs to roll them back to XP using downgrade rights.

According to an internal Microsoft PowerPoint slide that has been making the rounds, after April 23, 2010, new Windows 7 PC buyers will only be able to downgrade to Windows Vista. This would have forced recession-strapped companies to either buy new PCs before that date or consider expensive volume licensing agreements if they wanted to continue using XP.

Windows 7 looks set to wipe away the bad memories of Vista, but the uncertain economy will likely forestall an immediate mass migration to the new OS. Gartner recommends that organizations wait to deploy Windows 7 until 12 to 18 months after its release, on the grounds that some ISVs won't add Windows 7 support for their products right away, and because companies will need to first test it out in their environments.

It goes without saying that the April 23 XP cutoff date would have created problems for many organizations. But while the new XP deadline will come as a relief for many customers, the fact of the matter is that Microsoft would like nothing better than to see XP ride off into the sunset, because the continued demand for the nearly eight-year-old XP serves as a constant reminder of Vista's failures.

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Microsoft isn't offering a direct XP-to-Windows 7 upgrade path, and until recently had urged XP customers to upgrade to Vista before Windows 7 to minimize compatibility issues. In April, Microsoft acknowledged that PC makers would offer customers that buy Windows 7 PCs the ability to continue using Windows XP through downgrade rights, but seemed to drag its feet in making this announcement so as not to cannibalize Vista sales.

Microsoft in April also unveiled the beta for XP Mode, a feature in the Windows 7 Release Candidate that lets users run XP applications from within a virtual machine and is aimed specifically at small businesses.

Microsoft will start selling Windows 7 through retail and on new OEM PCs on Oct. 22.