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Jun 18 2009   2:26PM GMT

Microsoft muddles Windows 7 licensing, downgrades

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Windows 7 isn’t out yet but nearly everyone is perplexed by Microsoft’s licensing and downgrade rights for the operating system.

Yesterday, the company amended some downgrade terms for Windows 7. The company has decided that people with OEM licenses for Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate editions, can downgrade to Windows XP Professional on any machine that ships within 18 months after Windows 7 becomes generally available.   Or until there’s a Windows 7 service pack. Or whichever comes first. Microsoft has publicly pledged that Windows 7 will hit the shelves on October 22.

Previously, Microsoft had given a six month window for such downgrades–a restriction that was panned out of hand. “From October 22, the six months start. and most companies don’t even think about moving to a new OS until there’s a service pack . But the time SP1 for Windows arrives and you evaluate, your downgrade rights are gone.”

They can also downgrade to Vista at any time, an option that will go “widely unused,” according to one analyst.

One licensing expert apprised of the news said Microsoft really muddied the waters with its stated plans, then the quick restatement of those plans. 

“There’s something seriously wrong with your launch planning when you ask analysts and customers what they think, they tell you they hate it, you go ahead anyway and then change your mind a few days later.”

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