UPDATE: Microsoft May Offer Free Windows 7 Upgrades to Consumers
A memo purportedly from Microsoft to its OEM partners suggests that Microsoft will offer upgrades from Windows Vista to Windows 7, starting possibly on July 1, 2009. The upgrade will only be offered to consumers buying new PCs, according to the Tech ARP Web site.
Microsoft has not publicly released this information, and it may not be true, or the date may shift. Some authors have suggested the deal implies a free upgrade, but the memo doesn't specifically state that it would be free.
Participating OEMs have to agree to the deal, which is optional for them to offer, according to the memo. The deal is reminiscent of past marketing attempts that aim to promote new PC sales. The idea is to encourage consumers to buy new Vista-based PCs in a particular time frame, and not wait for the Windows 7 general release to make those purchases -- hence the idea of a free upgrade.
Microsoft still sticks with early 2010 as the general public release date for Windows 7. However, veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley suggested that the release-to-manufacturing date for Windows 7 might be sometime in the third quarter of 2009.
According to the Tech ARP memo, this offer will be part of the "Windows 7 Upgrade Program." The offer will be available during a specific "eligibility period," starting on July 1. The ending date for the program is yet to be determined.
The leaked draft also proposes a number of restrictions on the deal, depending on which edition of Vista consumers have purchased. New PC buyers can upgrade from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium only. If they have Windows Vista Business, then they can only upgrade to Windows 7 Professional. For those with Windows Vista Ultimate, the upgrade option is only to Windows 7 Ultimate.
Those buying new PCs with other versions of Vista loaded on them won't be eligible for the deal. The upgrade is language specific (that is, you can't switch from one language version to another), and 32-bit and 64-bit versions will be supported, according to the leaked draft.
Upgrading might not be so smooth, however. One of the proposed caveats in the draft suggests it may involve reformatting the hard disk.
"Installation for some of the Windows 7 products may require you to re-format your hard drive," the draft warns.
The draft also suggests heavy fines for OEMs that stray from the terms of Microsoft's program requirements, suggesting 130 percent royalty penalties.
Currently, Windows 7 is being tested as part of a pre-beta program. The Beta 1 version of the new OS is reportedly available through some BitTorrent sites.
Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.