Microsoft Readies Partner Fix for 'Downgrade Rights' Issue

When talking about Windows Vista momentum, Microsoft often mentions the 40 million licenses of the operating system that it's sold, with 20 million moving in the first month. The big question mark is how many of those licenses go out on the books as Windows Vista shipments, but involve users exercising the "downgrade rights" that allow them to install the well-tested and well-understood Windows XP operating system on their new desktops.

What has been clear is that Microsoft partners have been unhappy with the process that Microsoft has made them go through to exercise downgrade rights on behalf of clients.

A Microsoft executive this week confirmed that Microsoft is close to offering a first step to help remedy the problem for its managed partners. The company will be offering a fix for the broader channel sometime later for the six-month-old Vista operating system.

"The downgrade process we had when we launched the product was actually quite cumbersome," said John Ball, general manager of the U.S. System Builders Group at Microsoft.

Ball described the process. Partners needed to validate Windows Vista; then they needed to contact phone-based support and get a product key on a desktop-by-desktop basis.

"What we've actually done for Gold and Certified partners -- and this is the first piece of getting downgrade scenarios where they need to be -- is they are able to basically submit their product keys [online] for Vista Business and Vista Ultimate, and they'll actually get back the product keys for the corresponding Windows XP Pro."

Ball said the new process will be live in the "next week or so."

A solution is still in the works for the broader channel of Registered Members and other partners who don't have Partner Account Managers, Ball said.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.