Most Vista Business Buyers Downgrade To Windows XP, HP Says

PCs downgraded from Windows Vista to XP represent "the majority of business computers we are selling today," says an HP marketing manager.
An official at PC maker Hewlett-Packard said the majority of the company's business customers are downgrading new computers from Windows Vista to Windows XP -- raising questions about Microsoft's Vista sales figures.

PCs downgraded from Vista to XP represent "the majority of business computers we are selling today," said HP marketing manager Jane Bradburn, in an interview this week with Australian tech publication APC.

Microsoft officially retired Windows XP on June 30 after seven years on the market. But a loophole in Microsoft's business software license lets computer users downgrade the Windows Vista operating system on new machines to XP at no additional cost.

Businesses, which for the most part have balked at Vista's system requirements, intrusive security measures, and incompatibility with older software, are apparently taking full advantage of the downgrade option. In addition to HP, Dell and other computer makers are shipping "downgraded" systems with Windows XP preinstalled.

The situation raises questions about Microsoft's Vista sales claims -- as users of downgraded systems are technically purchasing a Vista license. Last week, Microsoft's official Vista blogger, Chris Flores, said the company has to date sold more than 180 million Vista licenses and that the OS is keeping pace with XP's sales performance during its early years on the market. And earlier this month, Microsoft claimed solid growth in Vista sales in the fourth quarter, which helped its Client unit increase revenue 15% year-over-year to $4.4 billion.

But Microsoft didn't break out the percentage of Vista licenses that have been downgraded to Windows XP. Given anecdotal evidence from HP and other sources, however, it's possible that the majority of Vista business sales are being converted to Windows XP.

Many enterprise software users may, in fact, bypass Vista altogether and wait until Microsoft ships Windows 7 in 2010 to upgrade their systems, though Flores said that Cerner, PPG Industries, and the U.S. Air Force have begun converting PCs from XP to Vista.

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