With Windows 7, Microsoft is hoping to have an operating system that people won't want to downgrade from. That said, it does plan on offering users that option.
Downgrade rights have long been a part of the Windows license for certain versions, particularly for businesses. That said, the option gained notoriety with Windows Vista. With Vista, the downgrade right was not only marketed by computer makers, but, once Microsoft stopped selling XP, some PC makers sold Vista machines that were "pre-downgraded" to Windows XP.
Microsoft is actually expanding that Vista downgrade rights program slightly, the company confirmed on Monday. Under the new program, PC makers will be able to ship pre-downgraded machines based on anticipated demand for those systems. Until now, computers makers could only ship XP-downgraded machines if a particular customer had specified that is what he or she had wanted.
Also, as noted earlier Monday by ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft plans a similar program for Windows 7, allowing users to go back not only to Vista, should they choose, but also to Windows XP.
Microsoft hasn't detailed exactly how downgrade rights will work with Windows 7--beyond confirming that users will be able to go back to XP--but presumably the rights will be attached to the Ultimate and Professional versions of Windows 7.
Businesses with volume-licensing deals covering Windows have long had the right to use any earlier version of Windows with their PCs.