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Microsoft simplifying downgrade process from Vista to XP

Microsoft is simplifying the processes via which its PC-maker partners will be able to provide “downgrade” rights from Windows Vista to Windows XP for their customers.

Microsoft will implement the first of the policy changes for its Gold Certified (top-tier) OEM partners within the next couple of weeks. The company will streamline downgrade-rights policies and procedures for the broader channel somewhat later, said John Ball, general manager of Microsoft’s U.S. Systems Group.

Under current licensing terms, Microsoft allows customers buying PCs preloaded with Windows Vista Ultimate and Vista Business to roll back to Windows XP until they are ready to make the move to Vista. For OEMs, the process via which these rights can be activated has been quite cumbersome, Ball acknowledged.

Under the current rules, OEMs must call about and file for each and every machine the license keys required to downgrade from Vista to XP. But Microsoft is planning to move to a new policy which will allow its top 170 OEM partners to submit these keys online for groups of machines, which will save them time and reduce complexity, Ball said.

Microsoft is working on ways to allow the rest of the channel to take advantage of these simplified downgrade procedures, but is still in the midst of hashing out the details, Ball said. He didn’t have a timetable for when Microsoft will make its more liberal downgrade-rights policies available to the rest of its PC partners.

Microsoft doesn’t view the popularity of user requests to downgrade from Vista to XP as a ding against Vista, Ball emphasized. In fact, at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver in July, Microsoft plans to evanglize Vista to its OEM and system-builder partners, and play up Vista’s momentum as proof that system vendors should get on the Vista bandwagon, Ball said.

Ball said Microsoft officials will highlight data meant to counteract the impression by some that Vista isn’t doing well in the marketplace. Among the datapoints Microsoft will emphasize, according to Ball:

  • Ninety-nine percent of all Windows PCs sold at retail are being sold with Vista preloaded
  • Seventy-eight percent of PCs preloaded with Vista are shipping with “premium
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