By Harry McCracken | Monday, July 12, 2010 at 6:45 pm
[CORRECTION: A Microsoft representative contacted me to say that the 2020 end to Windows XP downgrade rights mentioned below is inaccurate. As of now, the plan is for the downgrade option to go away when Windows 7 is no longer for sale–still a long reprieve, but not that long.]
Microsoft is holding its Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington DC. It chose the event to announce the release of a beta version of Windows 7 SP1. The beta is aimed at developers and tech pros, consists of fixes rather than new features, and isn’t a huge deal–especially if you’ve been installing Windows Update’s updates all along. Unlike Windows Vista, Windows 7 was polished enough even in its initial incarnation that it doesn’t cry out for immediate radical surgery.
Here’s some news that will please some folks, though: The company has given Windows XP yet another reprieve. (I’ve lost track of how many times it’s announced a final deadline for the OS’s availability and then extended it, but it long ago began to feel like Groundhog Day.)
Microsoft has been allowing PC manufacturers to let purchases of Windows 7 “downgrade” their new machines to XP, but this privilege was due to expire soon. As Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer explains, however, buyers of computers with Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate will now be able to downgrade to XP until January of 2020.
That’s more than eighteen years after XP shipped, and should be enough of a stay of execution for almost everybody. In fact, 2020 is so far into the future that anyone who thinks that he or she has a firm grasp on what computing will be like by then is either a whole lot smarter than I am or a whole lot dumber.
Seems like a smart move on Microsoft’s part. For companies that don’t want to part with XP just yet, an end to downgrade privileges would have been a compelling reason to avoid Windows 7. Now it’s a non-issue–and tech journalists like me get to stop writing stories about XP’s fate for almost a decade. Cool!