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Software giant Microsoft announced during its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC)
the availability of the public beta for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
Service Pack 1 (SP1), which the company noted does not contain any new features
specific to Windows 7. However, the features in SP1 for Windows Server 2008 R2
benefit Windows 7 by providing a “richer” virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)
experience, wrote Windows communication manager Brandon LeBlanc.

“For Windows 7, SP1 is simply a combination of updates already available
through Windows Update and additional hotfixes based on feedback by our
customers and partners,” he explained through a blog post. “Along with today’s
announcement of public beta availability of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
SP1, we also wanted to provide customers and partners with more predictability
around the lifecycle of Windows.”

This includes the extension of downgrade rights to Windows XP Professional
beyond the previously planned end date at Windows 7 SP1. LeBlanc said this will
help maintain consistency for downgrade rights throughout the Windows 7
lifecycle. Downgrade rights give businesses the opportunity to install an older
version of an operating system (OS), in this case Windows XP, without having to
buy a new license for it. While Microsoft has extended downgrade rights before,
it has never announced a decade-long extension before.

The company also announced it will allow retailers to sell the boxed version of
the previous OS for up to one year after release of a new OS, and that original
equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can sell PCs with the previous OS preloaded for
up to two years after the launch date of the new OS. This means that since
Windows 7 launched in October 2009, retailers will be able to sell the boxed
version of Windows Vista until October 2010, and OEMs will be able to sell PCs
with Windows Vista preinstalled until October 2011.

“This lifecycle policy has been in effect since before the launch of Windows 7,
and it has very little impact on most customers, as many retailers and OEMs
have already discontinued sales of Windows Vista in favor of Windows 7,”
LeBlanc said. “But it does ensure that our OEM and retail partners can
discontinue sales of earlier versions of Windows within a predictable timeline.”