Counting Down to Windows 7 Free Upgrades
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In a move aimed at keeping sales of PCs moving while users wait for Windows 7, Microsoft is about to begin a sales promotion that lets people who buy PCs pre-installed with Windows Vista -- between June 26 and October 22 when Windows 7 ships -- to get a free or discounted upgrade to Windows 7 when it ships in late October.
Don't grab the credit card and head for the local computer store just yet, though. That deal doesn't kick in for another ten days.
Microsoft's "Tech Guarantee" program is officially named the Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program (UOP), and it's optional for PC OEMs and retailers to participate in.
"This program enables participating retailers and OEMs to offer a special deal to upgrade to Windows 7 for customers purchasing a qualifying PC," Microsoft Windows 7 team blogger Brandon LeBlanc said in a posting earlier this month, though he gave no details.
The company has had tech guarantee programs for previous Windows launches, notably prior to the launch of Windows Vista -- which ultimately ended up with Microsoft fighting a deceptive sales practices lawsuit that is still working its way through the courts.
Windows 7 is currently slated to hit store shelves on October 22. Meanwhile, Windows 7 is nearly finished with its final test cycle -- called "Release Candidate" or RC testing -- and from there on will go through minor last minute bug fixes before the final code is "Released to Manufacturing" or RTM.
The question is what to do to keep consumers interested in the PC market while they wait for Windows 7 to ship.
Under the Windows 7 UOP, customers who purchase a new PC with Windows Vista pre-installed will be eligible to receive an upgrade to Windows 7 when it's available for free or for a discount off the retail price of Windows 7.
Pricing has not been announced yet for Windows 7's multiple editions, though an announcement regarding costs is expected shortly as well.
Will consumers bite?
One of the open questions regarding UOP promotions is 'do they work?' A quick survey of analysts and resellers found a mixed reaction.
"I don't think there will be much uptake," Richard Shim, research manager for the PC team at IDC, told InternetNews.com. However, much of that, in Shim's opinion, is due to the slow economy. Regardless, both Shim and other analysts see the program as necessary.
"It does keep [consumers] from postponing that purchase," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Techworld. "The reason that everybody does it is for a security blanket," he added.
Many families are about to confront the need to get new computers in time for the start of the school year, while Windows 7 availability is well into the school year, one analyst said.
"It'll make a difference particularly during the back-to-school buying cycle [in August and September]," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, told InternetNews.com.
In fact, some resellers believe the UOP will even help their business. Take, for example, hardware and software reseller Wasatch Software.
"It's necessary It's huge for us to be able to tell our customers, You don't have to wait [because] this PC is Windows 7 ready," Spencer Ferguson, president of Wasatch, told InternetNews.com.
A spokesperson for HP confirmed that the company will "be happy" to participate in the UOP, although the spokesperson declined to provide details due to confidentiality agreements with Microsoft. Dell did not return a call for comment by publication time.
Initial third-party reports of the Windows 7 Tech Guarantee or UOP said that the upgrades will run until January 31, 2010.
A Microsoft spokesperson could not comment on dates for the beginning and end of the UOP, or give specifics of the program, partly because much of how the UOP is implemented -- such as free or just discounted -- is up to the vendors, since they're footing the bill.