Microsoft has informed PC makers that free upgrades to Vista will only be available for MCE (Media Center Edition – ed.) users, the paper said. For Windows XP users, upgrading to the entry-level version of Vista will cost US$116, while upgrading to the premium version will cost US$269, noted the paper. The cost may affect PC demand through the first quarter of next year, PC makers were quoted by the paper as saying.
Aside from the uncertain provenance, one wonders if there is a localization disconnect since the upgrade prices for XP Home users are more than standard retail and there’s another line in the article about MCE being only 10% of new PC Sales in the 4th quarter which seems unlikely in the USA. However, there’s a germ of a good idea here – Microsoft providing “like to like” free Vista upgrades for the various versions of XP before Vista is available. Nathan Weinberg provides a modest proposal in that regard and mentions some cons associated with it too. The biggest one I see is that sticking XP Home users with Vista Home Basic which lacks the fancy Aero “user experience” would seem to be an unpopular move.
I’m still wondering though, how much of an attraction the free coupons really are. For the OEMs, attaching any such coupons to a machine means making very sure that they have their ducks in a row on Vista driver availability and Vista compatibility of their preloaded software to avoid unpleasantness later. For non-technically minded buyers, performing an upgrade to a new operating system would seem to be an unlikely endeavor in any case, and perhaps the only real value of the coupon is the comfort of its presence as Marc Orchant observes:
Most folks – the great masses of people who in aggregate make a difference to big companies like Microsoft and Wal-Mart and Best Buy – are not waiting with bated breath to get their hands on Vista. They either don’t know about it, don’t care about it, or are content to wait for it. Which goes to show that the general public, maligned though they may often be by techies, has their collective heads screwed on pretty straight (at least as far as new versions of long-delayed and far overdue operating system upgrades go).
Yup… good idea not to antagonize prospective Q4 PC purchasers by making them agonize over whether to buy now or wait. Silly notion to expect it to create any additional demand. Not going to happen.
One final purchasing tip, though: if Microsoft sticks to its guns, the day Vista comes out starts the countdown ticking on the paltry two more years of security fix support that Windows XP Home and Windows XP Media Center Edition will receive since they are “home” and not “business” software.