Windows Vista has been out in stores for more than two years now, and Windows 7 is close to release-candidate status. However, AppleInsider has learned from a "source within Hewlett Packard" that Microsoft will let HP continue to offer Windows XP downgrades through April 30, 2010.
Reportedly, HP will offer Windows XP Professional as a downgrade option from Windows 7 on its "business desktops, workstations, and notebooks." AppleInsider says it hasn't heard whether Microsoft will offer downgrades from consumer versions of Windows 7 to Windows XP Home Edition—or whether other PC makers will get the same rights as HP. Considering Windows XP "Mainstream Support" will end next week, though, it seems like only business systems may have the downgrade option.
AppleInsider's report contains another interesting tidbit: a quote from a purported HP memo that reads, "No formal announcement has been made on the General Availability date for Win 7. However, you can anticipate that business desktops, notebooks and workstations will take advantage of this with the release of Win 7 in the October timeframe." Since the first Windows 7 RC build should arrive in May, an October launch sounds pretty plausible.