As Expected Microsoft Gives the Gift of Vista 

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced incentives that it hopes will keep customers buying Windows based PCs during the upcoming holiday season even though Windows Vista won't ship until January 2007. According to Microsoft consumers who purchase new Windows XP based PCs between October 26, 2006 and March 15, 2007 will be eligible for free or discounted versions of Vista. A similar program is also in place for Microsoft Office 2007.

"Our customers can shop for a new PC with confidence this holiday season because of the Express Upgrade to Windows Vista and Office Technology Guarantee programs," said Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Mike Sievert. These programs ensure people will have a great experience with their Windows XP based PCs today and an even better one when Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office release become available.

The Windows Vista Express Upgrade program is available to PC makers and system builders. Customers who want to take advantage of this offer will need to ensure that the manufacturer of the PC they're buying offers the Vista upgrade. Confusingly, the offer will vary from country to country. More confusingly, PC makers can set the terms of the upgrade so the offer will also vary from company to company. Microsoft said only that the Vista upgrade can be offered for free or at a discounted price shipping and handling charges may also apply.

Here's how the upgrade will work: Microsoft will provide PC makers and system builders with upgrade discount coupons for Vista that the companies can then offer to their customers. In the United States, for example, the following upgrade paths will be available:

  • Free or nominal fee upgrades 
  • From XP Media Center Edition 2005 to Vista Home Premium 
  • From XP Professional Edition XP Tablet PC Edition to Vista Business 
  • From XP Professional x64 Edition to Vista Business 64 
  • Upgrades offered at 50 percent off the retail price 
  • XP Home Edition to Vista Home Basic 
  • XP Home Edition to Vista Home Premium 

Also consumers who purchase new PCs with a preinstalled version of Office 2003 might be eligible for upgrades to comparable Office 2007 product versions. The Office upgrades are a bit murkier than the Vista upgrades and will occur only through participating computer manufacturers in qualifying locations. The cost of upgrading is typically free plus the cost of shipping. However, Microsoft notes that customers will need to provide valid proof of purchase and cover shipping and handling costs associated with the upgrade. Customers in North America will receive a coupon with the purchase that must also be submitted.

Major PC makers such as Dell, FUJITSU, Gateway, HP, Sony, and Toshiba have announced support for both upgrade programs and customers can expect to see the offers appear on the PC makers Web sites in the days ahead. "Dell customers can rest easy knowing that the Windows Vista Capable PCs they buy from Dell now and during the holidays are ready to run the operating system when it becomes available," said John Medica, senior vice president of the Dell Product Group.