As I've been following the very noisy conversation about the Vista ship date slipping and the resulting impact it will likely have on Q4 retail PC sales, I had an idea. Why not send everyone who buys a PC between November 1, 2006 and whatever date Micorosft and the OEMs are confortable hanging their hat on - say February 1, 2007 - a free copy of Vista. Sound crazy? I think it could be a huge win for Microsoft. Here are three reasons why:
- Those who do buy a retail PC this holiday season will more than likely be the last to upgrade to Vista so it's not like they're cannibalizing sales.
- This removes all of the trepidation about buying a PC in the critical Q4 retail season despite Vista not being released. Retail buyers won't have to wonder if they should wait and end up spending their PC money on some other shiny bauble.
- You can encourage a higher purchase point by restricting the offer to systems bearing the shiny new silver and gold "Built for Vista" labels that are supposed to start appearing on April 1. Systems that meet the label program guidelines have got to have better margins that the $399 end-of-life specials that people might otherwise be buying.
It's really a cheap way to build some goodwill, encourage strong Q4 sales, and take some of the sting out of this most recent slip. Hey, it's not like it'll end up costing anyone involved all that much in lost OS upgrade sales or fulfillment costs. And, given the rebate craziness that's become so common in the retail PC market in recent years, if you ask purchasers to complete a rebate form and send proof-of-purchase, you'll have a ton of attrition from the same people who buy a PC and then forget to mail in the rebates. And you totally shut up the haters and naysayers.
Pretty clever, huh?