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Microsoft Ending Windows 7 Sales to Consumers This Friday

Retail sales of consumer editions of Windows 7 and Windows 8 are coming to an end this Friday.

On October 31, 2014, sales of Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate editions are scheduled to end through original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). While it might be possible to purchase a new PC in a retail store with those editions of Windows 7 preloaded, Microsoft isn't issuing any more of those licenses to OEMs after October 31.

However, Microsoft has extended the time in which you can purchase a new PC from an OEM that's preloaded with the Windows 7 Professional edition by at least a year.

Retail outlets also will stop selling Windows 8 boxed copies on Oct. 31, 2014, but new PCs with Windows 8 preloaded by OEMs will be available for at least a year. Typically, retailers and OEMs will be selling new machines with Windows 8.1 preloaded. Windows 8.1 is the OS that gets the new features these days, while Microsoft Windows 8 development is more at the dead- end stage.

Windows 7 Pro OEM Sales Extension
Microsoft policy is to provide a year's advance notice for when it will stop issuing Windows 7 Pro licenses to OEMs. That's explained on its Windows lifecycle fact sheet page. So far, though, the end-of-sales date is listed as "not yet established." In essence, that means Windows 7-preloaded PCs can still be bought from OEMs at least until October 2015. Only when Microsoft actually specifies a date on that page will the clock start to tick down for Windows 7 Pro OEM licensing.

The extension of this sales date to October 2015 for Windows 7 Pro-preloaded PCs likely was done by Microsoft to accommodate the needs of businesses. However, 2015 is also the year when Microsoft plans to introduce its new Windows 10 OS into the market. Microsoft has hinted that Windows 10 will be designed specifically to address the needs of business users.

Downgrade Rights
Organizations wanting Windows 7 can also take the option of buying Windows 8/Windows 8.1 and exercising their downgrade rights. Windows 7 currently is the most popular OS in use, with about 52.7 percent of the OS market, according to Net Applications data. In contrast, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 have a 6 percent market hold each.

Downgrade rights are a bit tricky. Microsoft explains the concepts in its licensing document (PDF).

Retail copies of Microsoft boxed Windows 8/Windows 8.1 software, which are called "full-package products" by Microsoft, don't have any downgrade rights. On the other side of things, Microsoft volume licensing customers have full downgrade rights to any prior versions of the OS.

Downgrades have to stay within the same edition family. For instance, Windows 8.1 Pro users can't downgrade to a higher edition OS, such as Windows 7 Enterprise, or to a lower edition. They can only downgrade to the Pro version.

Downgrading Windows 8/Windows 8.1 becomes more complex for those who purchased the OS preloaded on a PC by an OEM. Those users have downgrade rights only if the downgrade rights were specified in their "OEM License Terms," according to the Microsoft licensing document. To find that out, Windows 8/Windows 8.1 users have to consult their PC's documentation.

It turns out that some OEMs will include the downgrade media with the machine. However, they aren't obliged to do that, according to the Microsoft support page on downgrading from Windows 8.

If owners of a Windows 8/Windows 8.1 Pro OEM PC do have downgrade rights, they can only downgrade to two earlier Windows versions. For example, they can downgrade to either Windows 7 Pro or Windows Vista Business.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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