I was buying some new computers for work recently and I actually almost laughed at the newest OEM bullshit that is being pulled by Microsoft. But let me back up a bit. My workplace is a windows shop. I’d say that 99% of our machines are running some sort of OS made by Microsoft. Most machines run windows XP and we are really not in a hurry to change that dynamic. Especially since every single employee who bought a new computer in the last year gave us a panicked call the next day asking whether or not we will be migrating to Vista any time soon, and then thanked us profusely when we said that it is not something we have even remotely considered at the moment.
To tell you the truth I have yet to meet a single person IRL who thinks upgrading to Vista was a good idea. Most people in fact ask me if it’s possible to downgrade back to XP. Funny thing is that most of the new Vista laptops ship with the funky SATA drives which are not detected by XP’s installation disk. So even if you have a non-OEM Genuine Windows XP™ license and installation disk downgrade requires some tinkering (ie. slip streaming SATA drivers) which is a pain in the ass – especially if you are a luser and you have no clue what the hell you are doing. I can’t help but wonder if the laptop vendors are contractually forced to do this. I wouldn’t be surprised.
But this is not the underhanded Microsoft tactic du jour that I wanted to talk about today. I wanted to talk about the downgrade fees. If you want to buy a computer with Windows XP these days you need to carefully select your vendor since not all of them are allowed to do this. It’s not that there is no demand for it – as far as I can tell the demand for Windows XP is huge. It’s just Microsoft only licenses XP to few select companies. So for example, if you want to buy your new machine from HP you will need to go with Vista. If you want XP you probably need to go with Dell. Unfortunately, recently Dell stopped selling machines with Windows XP. When you buy a new computer you have to buy a Vista license. There is just no way around it. But because of the huge demand for XP, Dell will “downgrade” the system for you for an additional fee of $99:
Some people say this is a bargain, while I say it is a ripoff. Yes, you theoretically do get a Vista license but it is an OEM bound to that machine. Most people who are still buying XP machines have no intention of upgrading to Vista any time soon. I’d say that 90% of the people who purchased the downgrade will never actually use the Vista license they got as part of this deal. If they wanted Vista, they would buy Vista right now, no?
If I remember correctly, when Dell was still selling XP they were pricing it approximately the same as Vista. This means that practically speaking buying the downgrade means you are paying the same as you would pay for a WinXP computer and a $99 Microsoft Tax.
It is a shady, underhanded tactic and I’m not sure who should I blame here. Is Dell skimming off the top here selling us bullshit downgrades? Is Micrisoft requiring them to do this in order to boost their Vista sales this quarter? Is it both?
All I know is that I don’t like this one bit.