Dell promises to protect business customers' right not to use Vista

If you're a business customer of Dell, you might have to purchase Vista with your PC, but that doesn't mean you have to use it. Today, Dell is trying a new way to satisfy both business users' wants and Microsoft's licensing requirements.

A recent revision to Dell's policy for business PC customers lets them take full and open advantage of an apparent loophole in Microsoft's operating system licensing, though they'll pay full price for it: Assuming Microsoft goes forth with its plan to discontinue sale of all versions of Windows XP after June 30, Dell will still enable its business customers who purchase Windows Vista Business or Vista Professional to exercise certain "downgrade rights" and have Windows XP Professional installed instead.

"Dell has the ability to exercise 'Windows Vista downgrade rights' on your behalf in the factory if your business is still reliant upon Windows XP and you'd prefer to have Windows XP Professional preinstalled on your PCs," reads its amended policy page on Windows XP. "Downgrade Rights means that anyone with a Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate operating system can downgrade to Windows XP Professional provided they have the media for Windows XP Professional."

In other words, a business purchasing new computers from Dell and that already own licensed copies of XP Professional can have that version installed on new systems, provided they go ahead and purchase Vista anyway.

Customers will receive factory support for XP Professional when they elect to have Dell pre-install it for them on new systems -- provided, of course, they're already XP licensees. The company will also officially support Vista even if it's not pre-installed, which most likely means it will provide assistance to customers when (or if) they choose to upgrade.

The stand-alone version of Service Pack 3 for Windows XP went live for MSDN subscribers on Wednesday. It should be downloadable by the general public this coming Tuesday.

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