Dell’s offer allows them to take advantage of ‘downgrade rights’ built into Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate licenses. Essentially, this allows the party purchasing the computer to choose an installation of Windows XP Pro instead of the Vista OS, with the option of returning to Vista at a later date. Customers who take advantage of this offer will receive their computers with Windows XP pre-installed, but bundled with a Vista installation disc.
There’s more. In order to take advantage of the downgrade option Dell’s customers must first upgrade to one of the eligible versions of Vista (business or ultimate). In addition, this option comes free of charge only on Dell’s 630 and 720 H2C desktops, and the M1730 laptop. There are extra fees to downgrade the Latitude, Optiplex, Precision, and Vostro lines. Finally, Dell’s best-selling brand, the Inspiron, does not offer a pre-installed downgrade to XP. Customers purchasing these computers will have to manage the downgrade to XP themselves.
What does this mean for you? Essentially, Microsoft is phasing out Windows XP in favor of Windows Vista. The older operating system will be supported for a while yet (until 2014), but the time to make the switch is coming. Given the high hardware and software demands of Vista, it may be best to wait until you’re ready to buy that new computer before making the switch.