Arstechnica is reporting that Windows Vista Upgrade edition will not permit "clean" installs like all previous versions of Windows Upgrade editions. Will Microsoft pick up the extra hour tab from Geek Squad?This is another one of those "what were you thinking" moments for Microsoft management similar to their bone headed decision to lock the retail version of Vista to one hardware migration. Microsoft backed out of their ridiculous license change after Ed Bott sounded the alarm and others picked up on the story. So Vista Upgrade Edition should really be called Vista
"Not Clean" "time waster" Edition. [Update 4:10AM - A reader clarifies that you can technically do a clean install by telling Vista to wipe the hard drive before installing after it confirms a full copy of Windows XP is installed. This however is still lame because you can't just install Vista on a freshly formatted hard drive and it will still be a huge time waster.]
In the past, Microsoft has always respected their customer's time and allowed upgrade versions of Windows to install on a fresh machine so long as the customer could provide proof of possession of the old software. These new Vista Upgrade DVDs which I'm assuming have already been stamped out will lack the ability to install on a system unless Windows XP or 2000 was present. This means anyone looking to do a fresh install for any reason will not be able to. Someone who is doing disaster recovery after a hard drive failure or a virus infection won't be able to wipe their hard drive and install Vista, they'll have to install XP first and then install Vista on top of XP. That could easily mean nearly an hour wasted. If you're paying someone to rebuild your computer, this will mean an extra hour of labor that will be billed to you for the installation of Windows XP. Will Microsoft pick up the extra hour tab from Geek Squad for everyone?
Some might just say tough; you don't have to buy Windows Vista Upgrade Edition if you don't like the terms of the agreement. But the problem is that there are probably already millions of people who bought in to the promise of Vista upgrade coupons during this last holiday shopping season with their new computers or their copy of Windows XP and they weren't told that the upgrade terms have been changed. The Vista Upgrade coupons were used to lure people in to buying brand new computers for the holiday 2006 shopping season when many people would have probably opted to wait until after Vista launches at the end of January had they known about these new restrictions. Now these people are going to be in for a big shock after they wipe their computers and find out that their copy of Vista won't install without XP on the computer.
So why is Microsoft making a bone headed decision like this? One possibility is that Microsoft is afraid that people might try to keep running XP or Media Center on their existing machines and use Vista on a new computer. This would mean that Microsoft would be giving away two copies of Windows for the price of one. While I realize that a company has to make money off of a commercial Operating System, surely Microsoft could have worked out a better arrangement. Why not ask people to turn in their old Windows XP serial number when they get their Full Vista DVD and then blacklist that serial number from Windows Genuine Advantage. This would be a fair free trade-up from Windows XP to Windows Vista and no one should expect to get two versions of Windows for the price of one.
But it could be too late for Microsoft to avoid a backlash because Vista is launching at the end of today and all those copies of Vista Upgrade with no way to do clean installs have probably already been manufactured. If Microsoft wants to set things right for people who want to do clean installs of Windows Vista especially those who bought in to the promise of Vista coupons during this last holiday season, Microsoft should allow these people to opt for a trade-up to the full version of Vista where the old XP serial number is blacklisted on WGA 30 days after the Vista is shipped to them. That would seem to be the least they can do. [Update 1/30/2006 - Microsoft apparently ALREADY invalidates your old XP key once you use the upgrade. If that's the case, why torture the users even more?]