On Monday, Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc announced on the official Windows Blog that the beta versions of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 had just been released to the public. Buried in that announcement was an interesting tidbit, quite unrelated, commiting Microsoft to extending its deadline for "downgrade" rights to Windows XP:
[W]e have decided to extend downgrade rights to Windows XP Professional beyond the previously planned end date [to coincide with the release of] Windows 7 SP1 ... the OEM versions of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate will continue to include downgrade rights to the similar versions of Windows Vista or Windows XP Professional. Going forward, businesses can continue to purchase new PCs and utilize end user downgrade rights to Windows XP or Windows Vista until they are ready to use Windows 7. Enabling such rights throughout the Windows 7 life cycle will make it easier for customers as they plan deployments to Windows 7.
The announcement doesn't mean anything to companies that have paid for Microsoft's Software Assurance plan -- those folks have "downgrade" rights to just about anything. But for companies without Software Assurance, the extension means there's more time to buy new PCs with Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate preloaded, then install fully licensed Windows XP on those PCs, without having to pay more for XP.
If you work in an XP-only shop, where old PCs are rapidly turning into boat anchors and the powers that be refuse to sludge into the 21st century, that change could save quite a few shekels.
Note that LeBlanc didn't say exactly when this new Windows XP downgrade offer would end. Instead of a hard-and-fast date, we merely read that the offer was good "throughout the Windows 7 life cycle."