As verified this morning in an announcement from New Orleans, Microsoft is quite happy with letting Windows XP businesses hop right over Vista.
At this morning's Worldwide Developers' Conference in New Orleans, there were some who had prematurely speculated that Microsoft was ready to release Windows 7 to manufacturing (RTM) as soon as today. When it didn't, the headline went out that Windows 7 was "delayed" -- it wasn't.
But some business customers will begin ordering Windows 7 a few weeks later than anticipated, maybe not so much on account of delay as bad speculation that was never responded to. September 1 will be the start date for volume license customers to place their orders for Windows 7, including for upgrade versions. As a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to Betanews this afternoon, Microsoft will discount the price for Windows 7 Professional upgrade licenses by 15% for a six-month promotional period. That means that volume license prices could start at $152, while Vista licenses during the same period remain at a base price of $179.
The remaining questions include what happens during the interim period between September 1 and October 22. While the latter date is officially when the product begins distribution, Microsoft is likely to release RTM code to partners and subscribers to its MSDN and TechNet developers' channels in an earlier time frame. That means some businesses could be able to obtain legitimate Windows 7 licenses over seven weeks prior to the official release date.
A similar window of opportunity was worked in for Vista's business license customers, though for somewhat longer: Volume licenses were made available in September 2006, in advance of that operating system's official release the following January.
Though the actual upgrade procedure may not be a smooth one, upgrade licenses to Windows 7 Professional will be available for Windows XP customers as well as Vista. What's more, Microsoft representatives continue to explain to customers that license holders to Windows 7 will have downgrade rights that extend all the way to Windows XP Professional. Those rights, reps are saying, will extend from 18 months from the date of general availability (October 22, "GA-day") or until the date of the first Windows 7 Service Pack, whichever comes first.
As one of Microsoft's online forum moderators explained last month, the downgrade process will not need to look for an activation key stored on the system in order to effectively downgrade from Win7 to WinXP. That's good news, because it means upgraders can do clean installs of Windows 7 that still count as upgrades, rather than trudge through the process of upgrading to Vista first. All downgraders need is a valid Windows XP installation disk to effectuate the downgrade; it's this that the downgrade process checks for, not activation keys.