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"Dell has answers" ... like a Vista Downgrade to XP, but only for some users, and expect to possibly pay a substantial fee

Some corporate and private users of Windows XP remain lukewarm about Windows Vista and its higher hardware demands.  Microsoft has tried repeatedly to transition XP into end-of-lifespan mode, but has found that PC makers are constantly looking for ways to give customers what they want -- an XP OS.

Microsoft is still trying, though, and has insisted that customers simply do not want XP.  On June 30, availability of XP will be discontinued for most mainstream PCs.  Anticipating this, Dell yesterday wrapped up its XP installations and is shifting to a new tactic.

Dell, the second largest manufacturer of notebooks and PCs, behind only Hewlett Packard, anticipates a strong continued demand for Windows XP.  In response to this, and Microsoft's decision not to extend the lifetime further, it is going to take advantage of the "downgrade rights" applicable to Windows Vista Business and Ultimate licenses, which allow a user to ask for a copy of XP Pro in its place with the option of returning to Vista when they see fit.

On its website, Dell states:

Microsoft is making the full line of Windows® Vista the primary operating system for new PCs. However, customers who are buying a new PC have an opportunity from Dell to buy a Dell PC with Windows XP® Professional pre-installed and receive a Windows Vista installation disc. This gives customers the option of running XP now and transitioning to Vista when they’re ready.

However the privilege comes at a cost.  Not only will they have to pay for the extra money to upgrade from the standard OS to Business or Ultimate editions.  For the Latitude, OptiPlex and Precision lines that will be the end of the expenses, but for the Vostro line customers will also have to buy the "BONUS" version of the OS, a Dell creation. 

Here's how the "BONUS" works.  The default Vista is including in the cost of the notebook, say a Vostro 1000.  Upgrading to Vista Business over the default Vista Home Basic will cost $99.  To have the OS pre-downgraded to XP and in the box, though, will cost an addition $49 bringing the total to $149.  These expenses for the Vista Ultimate upgrade route are $149 and $20, for a total of $169.  This will likely be a tough to swallow decision for consumers in that they not only have to pay more, but they also are presented with the dilemma of whether they want to pay the extra $20 to have the option of the more fully equipped Ultimate edition.

So really the "BONUS" is anything but to the customer, but it only affects those buying Vostro branded machines.  Unfortunately, for customers hoping to exercise downgrade rights on Inspiron branded notebooks they will have to upgrade the Vista version and do the downgrade themselves as Dell is currently providing no downgrade services for them.  This is also rather strange in that Inspiron is Dell's best-selling brand.

Dell's 630 and 720 H2C desktops and the M1730 notebook appear to provide downgrades free of charge, though an official announcement has not yet been made.

While the new XP offerings from Dell will please some who are eager to avoid Vista, it will likely anger others.  In particular many will likely take issue with Dell's creative "BONUS" policy on the Vostro line and its lack of support on the best-selling Inspiron line.  Dell in providing a downgrade option but only offering it half-hearted support is perhaps offering an insightful reflection on general consumer reception of the Windows Vista OS itself -- many are fine with, but some are unsure of it, and a few remain ardently against it.

Microsoft will continue to offer XP for small, cheap "subnotebooks", such as the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO and the ASUS Eee PC, as well as "nettops" until 2010.





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