Microsoft and its partners are entering that challenging period that occurs every time a new Windows release is poised to debut: The lull just before the arrival of the next big thing. But it looks like the Redmondians are readying some new consumer and business incentives to keep the pipeline primed.
Microsoft is expected to release Windows 7 to manufacturing around August July of this year. Then there will be a period of "a few months" (as acknowledged recently by Windows Client Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller) before customers will be able to buy it.
Update: This just in (literally) from a company spokesperson: "Microsoft today announced that Windows 7 GA will be on 10/22. There will also be a Tech Guarantee type program known as Windows Upgrade Option. More details are to come in Steve Guggenheimer’s keynote at Computex in Taipei tomorrow (10:30p PT)." Update No. 2: There's a Microsoft Windows Blog post announcing the October retail-availability date -- and the expected fact that Windows Server 2008 R2 is on the same general-availability path, as well.
There's a sizeable pool of potential customers for Windows 7. In 2008, about 60 percent of the consumer market was still using XP or older versions of Windows in 2008 and 75 percent of the business market was doing the same, according to a May 29 Deutsche Bank research note, which cited Gartner Group data.
If you're in the market for a new PC in the next few months, what should you do? Hold off (if you can) until Windows 7 PCs are available -- October 22?
Consumers aren't going to have to wait until fall. There was a report earlier this year on the TechARP enthusiast site claiming that Microsoft and its PC partners were planning to launch an upgrade program via which customers buying new Vista PCs, as of July 1, would get coupons for a free copy of Windows 7. Microsoft still has yet to confirm that report. But CFO Reller, who spoke at a recent Cowan and Company conference, made it seem like Microsoft is ready to unveil that program any time now.
In response to an analyst's question as to whether and when Microsoft might go public about the Technical Guarantee upgrade program, Reller said:
"We have not announced the tech guarantee program is the one that you're thinking of, which is what we did with Vista. So, we have not announced anything specific to that, but yes, what I can say is that we were happy with that program with Vista. And with Vista it came before RTM (release to manufacturing)."
Meanwhile, on the business side of the house, there was a recent report on the UX Evangelist enthusiast blog that Microsoft has been offering volume licensees a chance to lock in Windows 7 Enterprise for $77 per copy as one of their Software Assurance benefits.
(A recent screen shot from the Microsoft Volume Licensing site, captured by a Neowin.Net reader, also made it seem like some kind of a Software Assurance pricing incentive for Windows 7 Enterprise is set to launch soon.)
I asked Microsoft whether such an incentive program is in the wings and was told that nothing has been announced. But company officials had no comment as to whether such a program was soon to be unveiled. The spokesperson ended up providing this statement: "For a limited time, Microsoft is offering a promotional price on Microsoft Software Assurance to customers that purchase a new PC with Windows Vista Business. Customers with Software Assurance will have access to Windows 7 Enterprise when it is released. We recommend customers contact their Microsoft Volume License reseller for a quote specific to their business."
Are you part of the pool of users of older Windows releases who are still holding onto XP (or Windows 2000 or even Windows 95)? What would it take -- incentive-wise -- to convince you to move to Windows 7?