Microsoft is testing a new Windows upgrade mechanism, known as Windows Anytime Upgrade. A first iteration of the technology is integrated into the February CTP (Community Technology Preview) releases of Vista that went to testers starting the week of Feb. 20.
Windows Anytime Upgrade licenses will be sold by Microsofts Solution Provider partners and PC makers, but not directly by Microsoft, according to information featured on the February CTP.
According to Vista Help File information that Microsoft posted and subsequently pulled from its Web site in mid-February: "If you want more features in Windows Vista, you can upgrade to another version.
"You can either buy a separate upgrade disc at a retail store or use Windows Anytime Upgrade to buy the upgrade online, and then use your Windows Anytime Upgrade disc or the Windows installation disc to complete the process.
"You can upgrade from Windows Vista Home Basic to either Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate. If you have Windows Vista Business, you can upgrade to Windows Vista Ultimate," the Microsoft information page said.
Windows Anytime Upgrade, according to a splash screen that is part of the February CTP, will work in the following way. Users will be required to purchase a Windows Vista Upgrade license online from one of Microsofts partners Web sites. Next, they will be directed to download and install that license. Finally, they will be required to insert the original Vista CD or DVD in order to install the upgrade.
Microsoft recently announced its planned Vista version lineup. There will be six core Vista versions, company officials said: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, Business and Enterprise. The Enterprise SKU will be available to Microsoft volume-license customers only.
But given that there will be both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of all of these variants (except Starter, which will be 32-bit only), plus two special releases of Windows Vista without Media Player integrated, as required by the European Commission antitrust regulators, there are more than a dozen different Windows SKUs in the pipeline.