“Save XP” Campaign: InfoWorld responds, and the facts about downgrade rights

by Bharat Suneja

Note to readers: I haven’t had to keep a post on hold for as long as I”ve kept this one, contemplating whether I should post it or not. After much thought, I’ve decided to post this, because it is important to know the facts about downgrade rights, and to clarify my position on this debate.

InfoWorld responded to my previous post (read InfoWorld’s campaign to “Save Windows XP”).

In a blog post titled Exchangepedia Blog Author calls “Save XP Campaign” Childish!, InfoWorld columnist J. Peter Bruzzese writes:

However, in the overall scheme of things will it budge the folks at Redmond to reconsider its plans? Not if Bharat Suneja, an MVP for Exchange and tech guru who publishes the popular Exchangepedia Blog site has anything to say about it. He has done his own research on the matter and his opinion should be heard!

Thanks for the kind words Peter – much appreciated.

To put it on record, I am not for or against Microsoft extending the deadline for Windows XP OEM and retail sales. I called Peter the saner voice (of InfoWorld) – he gets the gist of what I wanted to convey in the post:

The point Bharat is trying to make: Windows XP is an operating system that has lived past its prime, and Microsoft isn’t about to pull the plug on it any time soon. (Users can move to Vista on their own timeline).

In my post, I pointed out Microsoft’s Product Lifecycle Policy for Windows XP, including the facts that Windows XP mainstream support won’t end till April 2009, extended support will be available till April 2014, and Volume License customers can use their downgrade rights if Windows XP licenses are no longer available from retail or OEM channels. (As it turns out, downgrade rights are not restricted to Volume License customers.)

In fact, Microsoft will soon release a new service pack— Service Pack 3, for Windows XP. You can download Release Candidate 2 of the service pack here (link updated to the release version of Windows XP SP3).

InfoWorld Editor Galen Gruman comments

InfoWorld Editor Galen Gruman left a comment on the post here. What he has to say (relevant portions highlighted and bolded for emphasis):

For the record, as the InfoWorld editor who’s responsible for the “Save XP” story and related content, there’s one big error in this well-reasoned post: XP will not be generally available after June 30 if you are *adding* computers or people. We never said this was an issue of support. It is true that if you have a site license to Vista, you have downgrade rights to XP. But most small businesses and no individual buyers have these rights. They cannot get XP after June 30. And unless they bought new of two specific types of Vista — the full, not OEM, versions of Vista Business and Vista Ultimate — they do not have downgrade rights. GIven that practically everyone who buys a computer has just an OEM copy of Windows, they do not in fact have downgrade rights to XP and cannot add new XP licenses to their mix of XP systems. This forces them to have a mix of XP and Vista, whether or not they are ready for Vista. It was this concern that we heard repeatedly in the last year and led to this story. And why we advocated that XP be available for sale indefinitely — meaning not forever but until the market as a whole is much more ready to move.

Thanks for commenting Galen. Having read your follow-up article “The “Save XP” manifesto: Time to get past the distractions“, I agree with some of the arguments presented (and greatly disagree with others), and the underlying reasons for the “Save XP” campaign. However, your basic premise that setting a date for end of availability of OEM and retail licenses for Windows XP is like Microsoft giving users an eviction notice is simply not true!

I understand that the main issue Galen has is not about existing Windows XP users or computers, but about availability of Windows XP for new computers or users. Carrying the analogy further, that’s more like Microsoft saying we aren’t accepting new lease applications for this old, run-down apartment that is scheduled to be torn down. You can, however, lease a unit in this brand new complex we built across the street…. It is far from an eviction notice for existing tenants!

The facts about downgrade rights

As far as the downgrade rights Galen referred to (highlighted) in the above comment and in her follow-up article are concerned— she deserves the benefit of the doubt. There’s clearly some misunderstanding on her part, and it probably isn’t her fault. (Update: Based on our email exchange, I know she has tried to get a definitive answer to this.) Navigating Microsoft’s web of licensing options and agreements can be be challenging, even for MVPs. However, to be fair to Microsoft, I was able to get the answer by searching the web, and a single follow-up call to Microsoft Pre-Sales and Licensing. The response was clear and unambiguous.

Downgrade rights are not limited to large enterprises. This Microsoft Volume Licensing Brief [download] (dated January 2007) titled Microsoft Select License, Open License, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) License, and Full Packaged Product (FPP) License Downgrade Rights says:

Can I downgrade my OEM version of Windows Vista Business to Windows XP Professional?
>Yes. OEM downgrade rights for desktop PC operating systems apply to Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate as stated in the License Terms. Please note, OEM downgrade versions of Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate are limited to Windows XP Professional (including Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and Windows XP x64 Edition). End users can use the following media for their downgrade: Volume Licensing media (provided the end user has a Volume Licensing agreement), retail (FPP), or system builder hologram CD (provided the software is acquired in accordance with the Microsoft OEM System Builder License). Use of the downgraded operating system is governed by the Windows Vista Business License Terms, and the end user cannot use both the downgrade operating system and Windows Vista Business. There are no downgrade rights granted for Windows Vista Home Basic or Windows Vista Home Premium.

Translation: If you buy a computer and it ships with Windows Vista Business or Ultimate preinstalled by the manufacturer, also known as an OEM license, you can downgrade to Windows XP Professional. You do not need a Volume License of any kind to do that – end users, small businesses with or without an Open License, and larger businesses – again, with or without a Select or Enterprise License, can downgrade to Windows XP Professional, and use it for as long as they wish.

Microsoft confirms
A quick call to Microsoft Sales/Licensing confirmed that. You are welcome to do so yourself, by calling 800.426.9400. Select option 5, then option 3. In a follow-up call, Microsoft also explicitly and unambiguosly stated that users can use the OEM media (CD) or the one that came with a prior purchase of a FPP (retail) version to downgrade. Organizations with a volume license can also use their volume license media to downgrade. “The media is not important here, the license is”, added the Microsoft rep.

If you’re having trouble finding your Windows XP CD or need to order a replacement copy, you can do so by calling 800.360.7561 if you bought the retail (FPP) version. The cost is $23, or $29 with taxes and shipping. Volume License customers can order CDs by calling Volume License Fulfillment at 800.248.0655. When asked how long the replacement CDs will be available, and whether these will still be available after Windows XP is no longer sold, the rep responded: “They will be available for quite a while. No plans for discontinuing that yet.”

Though well-intentioned, some of the arguments presented by Galen are not as valid. Once again, I am neither for or against Microsoft continuing to sell Windows XP, nor profess that users move to Vista whether they’re ready or not. However, the implication that Microsoft is forcing users to move to Windows Vista, and terms like eviction notice used in such articles, do not present the issues in the right perspective.

Given the facts about Microsoft’s product lifecycle, support policies and downgrade rights, is Microsoft’s stance wrong here? Or does InfoWorld’s Save XP campaign amount to unfairly criticizing Microsoft, as InfoWorld’s own columnist J. Peter Bruzzese states in “Save XP? Why bother?“?

PS: Tom Sullivan’s response, and comment about MVPs

I was equally annoyed and amused by InfoWorld Editor Tom Sullivan’s response in “On the necessity of InfoWorld’s ‘Save XP’ campaign“. Tom says:

As Peter Bruzzese points out, the author of Exchangeapedia, Bharat Suneja, suggests that the campaign won’t inspire Microsoft to change its plans and keep Windows XP alive beyond June 30.

Suneja, it’s worth explaining, is a Microsoft MVP. A rare breed, indeed, these disciples are devout enough that, while attending an MVP Summit back in 2001, a pair of them even got married in Redmond, Wash. and read vows from their Pocket PCs.

That said, Bruzzese writes that Suneja “has done his own research on the matter and his opinion should be heard.” I agree, and particularly when he explains that mainstream support will end on April 14th, 2009, and extended support will be available for five years from that date, till April 8th, 2014, both points IT shops should research. Suneja writes, in his post, “Windows XP doesn’t seem like a product that’s being retired prematurely.”

That, obviously, is a matter of some debate. Contrarians can easily point to the reality that Vista sales are not exactly going like gangbusters.

Tom, All I can say is, I wish you had read my original post before commenting. Perhaps that’s just one of those good old journalistic niceties that we simply don’t have time for any more. :)

If you did read my original post, please accept my apologies.

MVPs are also some of Microsoft’s sharpest critics. An excerpt from the article in your sister publication, Computerworld:

Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a research firm in Kirkland, Wash., agreed that MVPs are both “in Microsoft’s camp” and its “best critics” at the same time.

“They criticize from a position of deep knowledge about the products and how customers use them,” DeGroot said. “So when they say something, they know what they’re talking about, and they’re not inclined to take cheap shots. They’d rather fix things than lay blame.”

MVP or not, my opinion and criticism of InfoWorld in this matter wouldn’t have changed. It is sad to note that what is otherwise a well-regarded tech journal is increasingly sounding like the MAD magazine of tech journalism on this topic.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

J. Peter Bruzzese March 20, 2008 at 5:27 pm

To me, it all comes down to journalistic integrity. This includes the principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability.

The SAVE XP campaign is a fine one for consumers to organize and run with… but not a news organization like InfoWorld because it betrays all the standards of ethics mentioned above. Where is the objectivity in some of the posts and comments I’ve been reading about? There is none. And when you kindly make an attempt to correct the incorrect (ie untruthful) commentary on the process, I believe the response you were given by Galen was, and I quote, “Whatever. I’ll stick to what MS told me, until they tell me otherwise.”

100,000 people have signed the petition. My question would be… how many of those persons are Mac and Linux lovers just hell bent on keeping us in the XP world a little longer?

Thanks for the effort on this Bharat. A true sign of journalistic integrity is demonstrated by your objectivity, in-depth research, and willingness to communicate openly with the world regarding the matter.


Russ Kaufmann March 20, 2008 at 7:18 pm

I have been following this entire exchange on both this site and on InfoWorld.

I really get a kick out of it as I see history clearly repeating itself. I remember the same whining regarding XP when it first came out. I remember people upset because they felt that Win 95/98 was fine and they hated the new architecture of XP. They hated the performance, they hated the lack of drivers, they hated that lots of applications did not run properly on XP, and they just also seemed to hate it because it was new and it has always been trendy to express hate when it comes to Microsoft and its actions.

Well, now the griping is about Vista and XP is what people don’t want to give up. I imagine the same whining and crying will come up when a new product is released to replace Vista.

What bothers me is that so many people are against change when change has led to some fantastic technological improvements that have made many companies more efficient.

Implementing Vista will lead to many improvements in business effectiveness as users are able to do more with less and support staff will have to spend less time and money to keep client computers running and secured.

My opinion? That is easy, I hate Vista on my old laptop. I absolutely love it on my new laptop, which was built with Vista support in mind. I can move from work to home and back without having to screw with my wireless network settings as Vista automatically finds everything and connects me without any special effort on my part. I love that I can put my laptop to sleep while I commute and it springs to life when I need it, again, without special effort on my part. I love that I can hibernate whenever I want and I can be confident that it will start up right where I left off again when I need my laptop.

Microsoft, like all companies, has a clear right (and a duty to its shareholders) to stop supporting old technologies as they reach then end of their lifecyle. XP has clearly reached the end of its life, and I can’t see any benefits in trying to keep it on life support. Businesses, both small and large, will benefit greatly from the improvements in technology. While there is no need to go around and uninstall XP on older equipment, there certainly isn’t any benefit to retrofitting it on new hardware which is more than capable of supporting Vista and providing users with a much better computing experience.

The whole “Save XP” campaign is a joke. Somebody needs to pop up and say, “April Fool’s” really soon.


Gordon Fecyk March 24, 2008 at 3:54 pm

The worst (best?) thing you can do to a fearmonger is to point out how they contradict themselves, and then watch everyone laugh at them. It’s the only way to stop them.

When it’s done in such a bulletproof fashion as Bharat has, it makes the episode that much funnier.

Let’s keep it up.


Gordon Fecyk March 25, 2008 at 11:06 am

“Implementing Vista will lead to many improvements in business effectiveness as users are able to do more with less and support staff will have to spend less time and money to keep client computers running and secured.”

Russ, you may have just uncovered InfoWorld’s reason for their fear of change. Isn’t their readership mostly IT support staff? Does Vista represent a threat to the employment of half-baked IT professionals who could become obsolete?

When I thought about it, I compared the situation to my current largest client. They are using XP, but in a very Vista-like manner with respect to security. And the IT team, including myself and the other, more permanent staffer, are spending less time on the desktop and more time doing other things that were long put off.

Quite a contrast from the same time last year, when everyone had admin rights on the desktop and it was bigger than a two person job.

No wonder InfoWorld is afraid. Their readership could get “downsized”.


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