Another Microsoft stumble - Vista coupons

Summary:With the Vista launch now only a few months away I can't help but think back to the Windows 95 launch. It might be my memory playing tricks on me but things were a lot different back then. Microsoft played the media like a concert violinist and it paid off handsomely. I guess they didn't have bloggers to deal with. Over a decade later and Microsoft is making a total mess of the Vista launch and the company is stumbling from one crisis to another.

With the Vista launch now only a few months away I can't help but think back to the Windows 95 launch.  It might be my memory playing tricks on me but things were a lot different back then.  Microsoft played the media like a concert violinist and it paid off handsomely.  I guess they didn't have bloggers to deal with.  Over a decade later and Microsoft is making a total mess of the Vista launch and the company is stumbling from one crisis to another. 

Starting today, users who purchase a Windows XP-powered PC may or may not get a Windows Vista Express Upgrade coupon.  This coupon, if they are lucky enough to get one, may entitle them to a free upgrade to Vista or offer a discounted upgrade.  You may or may not have to pay shipping and handling fees. 

Welcome to the latest Vista stumble by Microsoft - a complicated vendor-controlled voucher scheme that's far too confusing for the buyer.

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The idea is simple.  You buy a qualifying PC and you get a voucher.  You redeem that voucher for a copy of Vista and you install the operating system Welcome to the latest Vista stumble by Microsoft - a complicated vendor-controlled voucher scheme that's far too confusing for the buyer over Windows XP.  The classic "buy now, upgrade later" designed to keep consumers and vendors sweet. But Microsoft has taken what should be relatively easy and made it far too complicated by handing too much control over to the PC vendors (a list which includes Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Sony, Toshiba ...). 

First, there's an issue of what is a qualifying PC.  You'd think that step would be simple enough - any PC sold with Windows XP between the qualifying period (October 26, 2006 and March 15, 2007) would be eligible for upgrade. 

Wrong. 

Only some PCs will qualify.  Why?  Dunno.  I'm guessing that the support is a key point.  Vendors don't want to be compelled to offer support for the cheaper lines, so you only get onto the Vista Express train.

The next hurdle is the price of the upgrade.  The phrase that's being used by both Microsoft and vendors is "nominal fee", but even the official Microsoft Express Upgrade website is vague about price:

Price, terms, and conditions may vary. Additional shipping, handling, and other fees may apply. See your PC manufacturer for availability and applicable offer details.

So, what version of Vista does the upgrader end up with?  The answer, as you might expect, is that it depends.  The published upgrade path is as follows:

  • Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 -> Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Windows XP Professional -> Windows Vista Business
  • Windows XP Tablet PC Edition -> Windows Vista Business
  • Windows XP Professional x64 Edition -> Windows Vista Business 64

These upgrades come under the banner of "nominal fee".  But it doesn't end there.  the Express Upgrade coupon also entitles the bearer to 50% discounts of the following upgrades:

  • Windows XP Home Edition -> Windows Vista Home Basic
  • Windows XP Home Edition -> Windows Vista Home Premium

Notice no discounted upgrade path to Windows Vista Ultimate.  Odd that.

One element that can't be factored in to a coupon-based upgrade like this is how willing the average user will be to install an operating system.  Vista's pretty easy to install on a bare PC and it's also quite straight-forward to reinstall it onto an existing Vista PC, but going down the XP to Vista road can be bumpy, especially on systems that have poor drivers installed or incompatible security software.  Users could find themselves having to tinker a lot more than they are used to in order to get things working.

Breaking news and buying advice --> 

Breaking News

Dell
Some details are starting to emerge as to pricing - Dell plans to charge $45 (plus shipping and handling) to upgrade from Windows XP Home to Vista Basic while upgrading from Windows XP Media Center Edition to Vista Premium and from Windows XP Pro to Vista Premium will only mean paying for shipping and handling. 
Dell have also confirmed that there will not be any proof-of-purchase requirements.
Customers will also get a DVD outlining the upgrade process, step-by-step.

Hewlett-Packard
HP Pavilion or Compaq Presario desktop and notebook PC, and HP Digital Entertainment Center, with a qualifying Windows XP operating system bought after Oct. 26th will be eligible for a free upgrade to Vista.  The upgrade paths are as follows:
XP Home > Vista Home Basic
XP Media Center Edition 2005 > Vista Home Premium
XP Pro > Vista Business

Gateway
All eMachines and Gateway PCs bought on or after Oct 26th will be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows Vista.  The upgrade paths are as follows:
XP Home > Vista Home Basic
XP Media Center Edition 2005 > Vista Home Premium
XP Pro and Tablet > Vista Business

Buying Advice

Time for some simple buying advice.

  • Know what you are getting in advance.  Don't assume that you will get an upgrade coupon with every PC
  • Find out what the "nominal fees" are upfront.
  • Consider whether, based on your technical expertise, you'd be better off waiting for Vista to launch and buy a PC with it already installed.

The Windows Vista Express Upgrade program runs until March 15, 2007.

Topics: Windows

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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