Burned By the Windows XP Downgrade? Don't Blame Microsoft

A US District Court judge has put an end to a year-old lawsuit accusing Microsoft of antitrust violations for its program allowing new systems loaded with Windows Vista to be downloaded to Windows XP. Citing a lack of any benefit to Microsoft, Judge Marsha Pechman dismissed the suit.

Windows XP Downgrade
Microsoft implemented the downgrading practice in response to backlash against Windows Vista. As the newer, flagship desktop operating system, Windows Vista was installed by default on new desktop and laptop systems. Windows Vista encountered a variety of issues, though--some real, and others a matter or poor publicity, or bad marketing, resulting in an uprising of customers that wanted to stick with the tried and true Windows XP.

Although Microsoft has made some strides toward discontinuing support for the legacy Windows XP operating system, it still pandered to Windows XP loyalists by continuing the downgrade option even at the launch of Windows 7. Microsoft is offering the option to downgrade from Windows 7 to Windows XP through April of 2011.

As convoluted as it might seem, the practice of downgrading from the current version of Windows to the older Windows XP is not, in and of itself, the heart of the matter--and that is what ultimately led to the lawsuit's dismissal.

The plaintiff in the case, Emma Alvarado, had filed the suit after being forced to pay a fee of nearly $60 for the privilege of having her new Lenovo laptop downgraded to the older Windows XP platform rather than keeping the Windows Vista operating system that came installed by default.

In the lawsuit, Alvarado claimed that she was being taken advantage of by Microsoft by having to pay additional money to downgrade. The problem with that assertion is that Microsoft did not charge, nor profit from, that fee. Alvarado should have filed her suit against Lenovo.

Microsoft had maintained all along that it never profited, nor received any value or benefit from the program. Pechman agreed with Microsoft, pointing out that the plaintiff actually got more value from the deal than Microsoft. "If anything, it appears that Plaintiff obtained two versions of Microsoft's operating software for the price of one," she said.

Larger enterprises covered by volume licensing agreements with Microsoft already have more or less carte blanche licensing for the various Windows platforms and also often have hardware built by preferred vendors using custom images. Small and medium businesses, however, may be in the same boat that Alvarado found herself in.

Businesses that paid additional fees in order to take advantage of Microsoft's operating system downgrade option should take the matter up with the hardware vendor. While there is extra effort involved in rebuilding hardware with the older operating system rather than just cranking systems out on the assembly line using the default operating system image, the practice still seems a tad shady.

That said, unless you're talking about thousands, or at least hundreds, of dollars, its probably best to just let it go and move on. Unless you're hung up on the principle of the thing, the time and effort involved in trying to fight for some sort of refund or reparations is most likely not worth the return.

Besides, it's time to embrace Windows 7. There were some understandable reasons for avoiding Windows Vista, but Windows 7 nullifies them. Windows 7 includes a variety of features and functions that make it superior to Windows XP. More importantly for business use, Windows 7 is significantly more secure than Windows XP.

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies. He tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW, and can be contacted at his Facebook page.

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