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Update: Dell says no changes to Windows XP downgrade cost

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Update: Dell says no changes to Windows XP downgrade cost

Round Rock (TX) – Update: A previous version of this article claimed that Dell recently increased the cost of downgrading some of its consumer computer systems from Windows Vista from $50 to $150. Dell contacted us and provided additional information on the downgrade cost, guidelines as well as varying cost Dell charges to consumers who choose the XP option. The story behind the story: It’s complicated – the cost is still $150, but not all of it goes to Dell.

Dell’s website lists the Windows XP downgrade offered with the Inspiron 1525 notebook and 530 desktops as a $150 option and we were not the only ones who were quite certain that Dell offered the “downgrade” for $50 earlier this year. This, in fact may have been the case – and still is the case – but the cost to the consumer is not $50, but $150. The confusion about this topic lies in the fact that there are charges to the simple upgrade process and then there is a separate charge for the higher-end operating system license consumers have to buy as well. 

According to Dell spokesperson David Frink, the fee consumers have to pay to “cover the download request [that] has always been $20-$50”, depending on the platform. And that apparently did not change. However, there is a separate charge that Dell cannot influence, which is a required Windows Vista upgrade that “has always been $100-$130”, Frink said. We were quite particular to inquire which charges pop up when and where, but all Frink was willing to divulge was that Dell chooses to offer Windows XP to its customers as an option and is not forced by Microsoft to do so.

Microsoft, however, requires users to pay for the OS upgrade, which, in total ends up at the $150 fee we initially report upon. Frink stressed that the $150 does not all go to Dell.

Without specifying how many people still choose Windows XP, he noted that most Dell customers go with the Windows Vista option. Consider it a very subtle message from Microsoft that you really don’t want Windows XP anymore. It is old and makes Vista market share numbers look bad. It is about time to use Vista, even if you don’t like it. Get it?  

Original article continued:

Earlier this year, Microsoft said it would cut off sales of Windows XP after June 30. Dell was first to announce it would continue supporting the old operating system past summer by offering buyers of select Vista Business or Vista Ultimate equipped machines the option of a XP downgrade – an option that was quietly supported by Microsoft. Dell allegedly promised to continue offering this choice as long as Microsoft supported the XP downgrade option.

The terms of the downgrade policy allow Vista Business or Vista Ultimate systems to be downgraded to Windows XP Professional. Computer vendors pre-install Windows XP Professional in factories in lieu of Vista but users still get a Vista license should they change their mind later and decide to switch to the more recent operating system. The software maker’s terms specifically prohibit vendors from downgrading machines to a less expensive Windows XP Home Edition, excluding vendors of an affordable, lightweight sub-10” portables dubbed netbooks who are allowed to pre-install Windows XP Home Edition on these systems.

The software maker originally planned to kill Windows XP in an effort to accelerate disappointing Vista sales which hit 140 million licenses by this May since its release last January. However, pressure from owners of entry-level machines forced Microsoft to extended XP support for low-end computers, despite the fact Microsoft’s licensing terms does not oblige the company to supply earlier Windows versions to consumers or manufacturers. Apparently, there was also substantial demand for XP especially from buyers of high-end systems.

According to an August survey by market research firm Devil Mountain Software, which runs a global community-based network to collect “real-world” metrics from Windows computers, over one third of new PC buyers in past six months have downgraded from Vista to Windows XP. The resilience of the popular operating system combined with lackluster Vista response prompted Microsoft to extend the OEM downgrade timeline in August to allow system builders to continue offering Windows XP downgrade option to their customers for another six months to July 31, 2009.

Although most computer vendors including Fujitsu, Lenovo, and HP now mainly offer PCs exclusively with Vista pre-installed, several big PC vendors never stopped offering the Windows XP downgrade option for custom-built systems. The Windows XP downgrade is now the only way to get the operating system as the standalone version has nearly disappeared from retail outlets.

According to Net Applications, Windows XP is still the most popular operating system in the market with a share of about 66.3%, followed by Windows Vista with 20.45% and Mac OS X of about 8.8%