More than a third of new PC buyers downgrade Vista to XP, survey says

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Chicago (IL) – According to Microsoft, Windows Vista is on a path of success and the operating system is flying off OEM and retail shelves. However, a new survey questions how many of those actual Vista licenses are actually in use, as a new survey claims that a substantial portion of PC buyers chooses to downgrade to Windows XP.  

According to market research firm Devil Mountain Software, which runs a global community-based network to collect “real-world” metrics from windows computers, almost 35% of users who purchased a PC within the past six months downgraded from Windows Vista to Windows XP. Apparently, this trend continues, despite the fact that Microsoft officially retired Windows XP from retail and OEM channels back in June.

The survey covered more than 3000 users who voluntarily provided data to Devil Mountain's exo.performance.network. Devil Mountain came up with final results by matching vendor and system ID data from the exp.performance.network database and comparing it with system vendor offerings, which enables the firm to estimate the number of systems most likely shipped within the past six months.

"Either these machines were downgraded by Dell or HP, or they were downgraded by the user after they got the machine," said Devil Mountain's chief technology officer Craig Barth. "In any case, these machines are no longer running Vista." The EULAs for Vista Business (including Vista Enterprise) and Vista allows end users to downgrade to Windows XP Professional. Barth noted that 35% is an estimate rather than an exact figure. However, he considers the result an indication that "people are taking advantage of Vista's downgrade rights."

Even if there are no hard numbers, the doubt over how successful Windows Vista really is may grow. While Microsoft recently said that 180 million licenses have been sold so far, some numbers suggest that Vista in fact is facing declining growth. If an estimate of about 5.8 million Vista licenses sold per month is in line with reality, and Barth’s downgrade estimate of 35% is also somewhat correct, the negative impact on Vista usage could add up to more than 12 million PCs within the past six months alone.     

According to Barth, there is a notable disproportion between Vista's installed base and the actual number of Vista licenses that Microsoft sold. OEM vendors who continue to offer machines downgraded to XP contribute to the bottom line. For instance, IBM favors Linux and Dell recently launched first consumer Linux PCs - also offers downgraded PCs.