Should we have to pay extra to get WinXP?

I like my Windows XP. Don’t ask me why, maybe it’s because I’ve suffered through enough operating system “upgrades” since DOS to qualify me for sainthood or maybe it’s because right now everything works right.

I bought a couple of new laptop computers before the end of the year and DELL told me that I had a choice of Windows Vista or Windows XP – but these would probably be the last machines I could buy with XP preloaded. I passed it off because they were selling me my old standby and giving me what I wanted.

I was surprised to learn that as of the first of the year, all new computers sold by the major OEM’s are almost certain to be preloaded with the Windows Vista OS. I was more surprised to learn that if you want Windows XP – you have to pay a $50 DOWNGRADE fee.

I started looking into this because it just didn’t sound right.

Sure enough, I find that all of the people who have been charged for the right to downgrade from Windows Vista to Windows XP may be able to join a class action lawsuit against Microsoft.

I read in one of the trade e-zines I get that a suit filed in Seattle by one disgruntled consumer alleges that the charge for downgrading violates a bunch of consumer protection laws.

In another article which covers the lawsuit, it states that the plaintiffs allege “As the sole licensor of Windows Vista, Microsoft enjoys vast power over OEMs which it has used and continues to use to stifle competition. … Microsoft has used its power to coerce OEMs, internet access providers (”IAPs”) and others into agreeing to restrictive and anti-competitive licensing terms for its Windows XP operating system in order to stifle competition in the market.”

The complaint goes on to say what I had already learned, “Consumers have encountered numerous problems using the Vista operating system, and these problems have been widely publicized in various media outlets. As a result, many consumers would prefer to purchase a new computer pre-installed with the Windows XP operating system or at least not pre-installed with the Vista operating system. However, Microsoft has used its market power to take advantage of consumer demand for the Windows XP operating system by requiring consumers to purchase computers pre-installed with the Vista operating system and to pay additional sums to ‘downgrade’ to the Windows XP operating system.”

An interesting point that I discovered is that, to date, nearly one in three consumers purchasing a new computer has paid to downgrade the operating system from Vista to Windows XP. There has to be a reason for that.

I am interested to learn how many other people feel the same way …. you’d rather fight than switch! Or, if you have a different opinion of Windows Vista, I’d be interested to hear that too.

In any event, I will be following with interest the outcome of the suit. I don’t believe you should charge extra for an older operating system that computer users apparently prefer to the current release. We’ll see how it turns out.