If one were to look for the longest-standing personal computer operating systems on the planet, one might not have to look much farther than Microsoft’s Windows XP. Although the OS has been officially supplanted by Windows Vista and WIndows 7, the OS continues to be used by an astonishing number of people, particularly folks running lower-end or older hardware…and occasionally brand-new netbooks. Although Microsoft has officially discontinued support for Windows XP SP2—the final security patch went out yesterday, including a fix for the controversial Windows Help Center bug—Microsoft will continue to offer “downgrade rights” to WIndows XP for companies buying new copies of WIndows through 2020.
Note that if you look for the year “2020″ in that announcement, you won’t find it—Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc actually went to a fair bit of trouble not to mention a date so far in the future in the context of Windows XP. (After all, Microsoft wants folks adopting current versions of Windows, not sticking with a version that’s already nearly a decade old). However, the post does indicate Microsoft has extended Windows XP downgrade rights through the full life cycle of WIndows 7—as long as WIndows 7 is still supported by Microsoft (and that’s a date long after it will stop being sold by Microsoft), users will still have downgrade rights for Windows XP. For Windows 7 Ultimate owners, that means downgrade rights run through January of 2015; for Windows 7 Professional, it’s all the way out to January 2020.
These cutoff dates are intended to apply only to Microsoft’s enterprise customers, maybe of whom have thousands of older systems with complicated software installations that they need to continue supporting. For everyday consumers, the end date for Windows XP is much, much nearer: PC manufacturers should stop offering systems with Windows XP pre-installed on October 22, 2010.