Thursday, October 26, 2006

Microsoft offers Vista upgrade for PC buyers

(MarketWatch - Updated with additional information in the third and fifth paragraphs.)
Holiday shoppers won't miss out on the newest version of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system, Vista, or Office if they buy a personal computer -- since the software maker is offering a new program that will give buyers either a free or discounted version of the products. The amount of the Express Upgrade offer will depend on each individual PC maker, according to a company press release.
Microsoft said a number of computer manufacturers worldwide have confirmed plans to participate in the Express Upgrade. Lisa Emard, a spokeswoman at Gateway Inc., said starting this Thursday all Gateway and eMachines computers sold direct will be eligible for a free upgrade to Vista when it becomes available. According to the spokeswoman, some customers that buy PCs at retail locations or internationally could be charged a shipping and handling fee or duplication fee.
Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard Co. spokeswoman Ann Finnie said the company will also offer free upgrades starting Thursday. She said customers in the U.S. won't have to pay a shipping and handling fee.
Dell spokesman Bob Kaufman said Dell will charge customers a $45 fee to upgrade to Vista Home from Windows XP Home edition when it comes out. The spokesman said customers will only have to pay shipping and handling if they are upgrading from Windows XP Pro or Windows XP Media Center to Vista Premium. Given that some of Dell's peers have opted not to charge for the upgrade, Kaufman said, "As with many things we do, Dell will evaluate the marketplace and competition on behalf of customers to make appropriate moves if and when its necessary."
Microsoft held a press conference at 5:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday to discuss the program. Microsoft is planning to issue its business version of Vista to business customers in November and to consumers in January, missing the critical holiday purchasing season. The discount program begins Thursday and runs through mid-March, 2007. It has been long anticipated that Microsoft would offer some type of discount program since the delay in the release date for Vista was announced this spring.
Earlier this fall, a company official confirmed during an event that Microsoft was speaking with computer makers about a possible program. Roger Kay, founder of Endpoint Technologies, said Microsoft's move to offer vouchers could mitigate some delays in purchases by consumers this holiday season. Still, he said it doesn't solve the main problem, which is that consumers who buy a computer this holiday season will have to face an upgrade when Vista comes out in January. "It's better than if they had done nothing," said Kay. "It's not as good as if they had hit the schedule." Kay added that most industry watchers had anticipated some form of a voucher.