Vista Coupon Craziness

Opinion: Microsoft has a new scheme for PC vendors, but it may backfire, as users and vendors become 'sick to death' of upgrading from XP to Vista.

So, since Microsoft flopped at getting Vista out by years end, it has a new scheme to make its PC-making buddies happy: coupons.

I guess Microsoft figures if it works for your local grocery store, maybe it will work for Hewlett-Packard and Dell, too.

Heres how the coupon deal works. If you buy a PC with Windows XP Professional from a big name vendor, youll get a coupon for an upgrade path to Windows Vista Business Edition. If you buy a PC with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 or Windows XP Home Edition? Then you can upgrade to Windows Vista Home Premium Edition.

Now, if you buy a boxed copy of Windows XP Professional or you get your XP Professional from a second-tier or smaller OEM, your upgrade choices will be from Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 to Windows Vista Home Premium; from Windows XP Home Edition to Windows Vista Home Basic or to Windows Vista Home Premium. With XP Pro, XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 and XP Pro x64 Edition, you can upgrade to Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Business 64.

The pitch is that you will be so excited about knowing that you can get Vista for cheap, that youll go ahead and rush out to get a new PC for Christmas. There are just a couple of problems with this idea.

First, Microsoft wont be honoring those coupons. It will be the computer vendors, and each of them will offer upgrades in its own way.

So, for example, Dell spokesperson Bob Kaufman has said that the company plans to charge $45 plus shipping and handling to move from Windows XP Home to Vista Home Basic, the upgrade from Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 to Vista Home Premium and from Windows XP Pro to Vista Home Premium will incur only a shipping and handling fee. Dell will not require a proof of purchase.

HP, on the other hand, will let you upgrade for free if you buy a system with a "Windows Vista Capable" XP operating system between Oct. 26, 2006, and March 15, 2007. However, you will have to provide a proof of purchase to get the upgrade, and you may or may not have to pay for shipping.

In short, each company has its own rules. So, when youre making your Christmas PC list, youll need not only to check prices, but youll also need to look in on your upgrade-path costs as well.

That will be loads of fun.

Part of the fun also will be deciding which version of Vista you want to upgrade to anyway. I recently made some suggestions about how to get the right Vista for you, but now youre going to have price out the upgrade paths as well before you can make an informed decision.

Which Vista is right for you? Click here to read more.

OK, so maybe you dont care about $30 bucks here or there. But, then comes the "best" part of the coupon deal: You have to replace XP whatever on your new PC with Vista.

I am also grinning at how many Windows fanatics are going to crash and burn when they try to make the Vista switch. I hear from people —often from areas near Redmond, Wash., for some reason—about how hard it is to install Linux, how its so incompatible with their hardware, how they cant run their applications on it and so on. Honey, if you thought upgrading to Linux was bad, just wait until you try moving from XP to Vista.

I upgrade delete, repartition and replace operating systems all the time. Many people think I specialize in Linux. Thats never been true. I specialize in operating systems. Yes, Ive used dozens of different Linuxes, but Ive also used every Microsoft operating system from MS-DOS 1.0 and Xenix to the latest Vista release candidate.

And you know what? Even for me, upgrading any operating system is work. Changing operating systems and—make no mistake about it—moving from XP to Vista are never, ever easy.

Dont believe me? Check out what happened when the eWeek Labs—more people who spend their entire work day fighting with computers—updated a Lenovo ThinkPad T41 with 1.5GB of RAM, a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor and an ATI Technologies Radeon 7500 video card from a Ziff Davis Media standard Windows XP office image to Vista Release Candidate 1.

It wasnt pretty. Their recommendation was not to "upgrade" XP but to replace it with Vista. Thats my recommendation as well.

Of course, if you do that, youll also lose all the software the hardware vendor placed on the system, not to mention anything you installed. And, theres no guarantee that your old XP software is going to install without a hitch on the Vista system.

I mean, you do know, dont you, that Vista doesnt even install software the same way XP does? You are ready to deal with how to install software while taking into account how Windows UAC (User Account Control) works with it, right? And, surely you know that Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel utility is history in Vista, right? Of course, right!

My goodness, its going to be one heck of a day when 99 percent of users get their Vista "upgrade." I foresee hundreds of thousands outraged users jamming vendor help lines, laptops being thrown out windows, and screams coming from every PC vendors executive office in the country.

I guess I should thank Microsoft for this move. This coupon craziness is just what the doctor ordered. All those users and vendors who are going to become sick to death of fighting with Vista upgrades may finally wake up to the fact that there are better desktop operating systems, such as Linux and Apple Computers Mac OS, already out there.

But, if you really are addicted to Windows and you must have Vista, may I make one suggestion? Do not buy a PC this holiday season and try to upgrade it. Wait until Vista is preinstalled on PCs, sometime in the spring of 2007, and then buy your computer. Chances are youll still be running Vista before most of the coupon buyers get it running right.