After being met with disapproval from analysts and consumers alike, Microsoft has prolonged the availability of its Windows XP downgrade option from Windows 7. Redmond’s plan of abandoning the downgrade 6 months after the new operating system’s release in October has been extended by 12 more months, or until its first service pack is seen. This stretches the availability time-frame until about April of 2011.

Initial critics were up in arms over the allotted 6 months as the software giant usually provides a lengthier transition period. Michael Silver of Gartner saw the planned duration as having the potential to cause a “real mess” for large businesses still relying on XP. He argues that companies would be forced to buy XP-ready systems prior to the deadline, or subsequently be stuck with Vista-only downgrades.

After April 2010, if a company were to buy new systems and wanted to stick with XP, it would have needed to purchase PCs with Vista Business or Ultimate for XP downgrade rights. The problem is, transitioning to Windows 7 from XP would then force them to also buy upgrade licenses - they'd essentially pay twice.

For now, naysayers are appeased with the extension – unless a service pack for Windows 7 actually shows up six months after the operating system’s appearance, of course.