Vista Upgrade Details Out

Microsoft leaves it up to OEMs to set prices, with some charging zip.

Microsoft has revealed the much-anticipated details of its program to let customers upgrade to Windows Vista after buying PCs over the holiday season.

Microsoft officials have said they are on track for a release of Vista to volume-license business customers in November and to consumers in January.

The new initiative, known as the Express Upgrade to Windows Vista and Microsoft Office Technology Guarantee program, will be in effect from Oct. 26, 2006, to March 15, 2007, and will be managed in two ways: by PC manufacturers that preload the operating system and by Microsoft via system builders.

Microsoft has decided to let OEMs such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway, Sony and Lenovo decide individually how they want to roll out the Vista upgrade program for those customers who buy their hardware with Windows XP preinstalled during this time, said Kevin Kutz, a director in Microsofts Windows Client group, in Redmond, Wash.

"We set this program up for our OEM partners to manage, price and customize what they feel is the best offer for their customers. They are taking care of how they inform their customers about the offer and how they plan to fulfill it," Kutz said.

While both Gateway and HP are going to let customers who buy certain PCs this holiday season upgrade to Windows Vista at no cost, Dell has decided to charge a fee to upgrade from Windows XP Home Edition to Vista Basic.

Dell spokesperson Bob Kaufman told eWeek that while the company plans to charge $45 plus shipping and handling to move from Windows XP Home Edition to Vista Home Basic, the upgrade from Windows XP Media Center Edition to Vista Home Premium and from Windows XP Professional to Vista Home Premium will incur only a shipping and handling fee.

When Vista becomes available, customers will receive two DVDs: one that contains Vista and the other that gives a step-by-step guide on how to load the new operating system, said Kaufman in Round Rock, Texas.

Dell recommends that those customers who buy systems, both now and when Vista is available in January, should consider including dual-core processors, upgraded graphics cards with 128MB of graphics memory, large hard drives of 2GB or more, and a wide-aspect screen "for an optimized experience on Vista," Kaufman said.

A Gateway spokesperson told eWeek that all eMachines and Gateway PCs are eligible for a free upgrade to Windows Vista for purchases from Oct. 26 onward.

Tiffany Smith, public relations manager for HPs personal systems group, in Houston, said North American consumers who between Oct. 26 and March 15 buy a new HP Pavilion or Compaq Presario desktop or notebook PC, or HP Digital Entertainment Center, with a qualifying Windows XP operating system that is designated Windows Vista Capable will be eligible for a free upgrade to Vista.

Shipping and handling costs may also apply, depending on individual retailer requirements, Smith said.

Regarding the smaller PC makers, known as system builders, Microsoft will provide custom-ers with Windows Vista upgrade discount coupons when they buy a qualifying Windows Vista Capable PC.

While the offer will vary by region, the plan for the United States is that upgrades for PCs bought from system builders from Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 to Windows Vista Home Premium will be offered for the cost of shipping and handling, as will upgrades from Windows XP Pro, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and Windows XP Pro x64 Edition to Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Business 64.

Is Your Computer Vista-Ready?

A Windows Vista Capable PC includes at least:

* A modern processor (at least 800MHz)

* 512MB of system memory

* A DirectX 9-capable graphics processor

A Windows Vista Premium Ready PC includes at least:

* 1GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

* 1GB of system memory

* Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128MB of graphics memory (minimum), Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per pixel

* 40GB of hard drive capacity with 15GB of free space

* DVD-ROM drive

Source: Microsoft