Over the past few weeks I've read a number of articles by tech pundits who seem to be seriously suggesting that Microsoft gives away free copies of Windows 7 to ... well, pretty much everyone. My advice for those hoping that this sill happen ... don't hold your breath!
Rather than pointing you to specific articles, allow me to summarize the general gist of these articles:
Most of the articles I read had padded out points 1, 2, 3 and 5, (because you can't get on Digg or Slashdot if it only consists of five rather vague bullet points). However, when it comes to explaining how Microsoft is going to make money from this move, most of the articles were very sketchy.
My take. Simple - It's not going to happen. Let's just look at a few of the reasons why not.
1 - Money
My blogging colleague Ed Bott has crunched some broad brush numbers as to how much money Windows 7 might represent to Microsoft. After lackluster Vista sales Microsoft needs to see a bump in revenue from Windows 7.
Giving Windows 7 away to all Vista users would put quite a dent in these numbers and Microsoft shareholders would likely kick off big style.
This reason alone is enough to kill off this idea, but just in case some of you are still holding out hope, here are a few more reasons.
2 - Logistics
Who's going to get free copies and who isn't? How will these copies be distributed? Who would handle tech support?
3 - OEM support
Windows gets to most users not via Microsoft retail channels but through OEMs who bundle Windows onto systems. This means that getting any sort of free upgrade to Vista users would need a lot of OEM support. In fact, it would mean that OEMs would need to try to make every Vista PC sold support Windows 7. Worse than that, consumers would expect every PC sold since Vista's release to support Windows 7, and punish OEMs who couldn't match up to expectations. This would be nothing short of a PR nightmare for OEMs.
4 - Lost sales
Chances are good that if an end user did install Windows 7 onto their Vista PC they'd notice an improvement in performance. A free upgrade would essentially mean that OEMs were extending the life of user's existing PCs and losing potential sales.
Remember, OEMs will be looking at Windows 7 as a way to sell new hardware.
Basically it's not going to happen. Sure, there's a good chance that at some point soon we'll see Microsoft offer a technology guarantee to retail customers, and we should also expect to see some sort of logo program (hopefully one that's a lot better than the Vista Capable logo program) for OEMs. But beyond that I don't see Microsoft participating in any kind of mass giveaway. No, not even as a final gesture of goodwill to all those Vista Ultimate users waiting for that killer Ultimate Extra.