Microsoft can't get the consumer version of Vista delivered in time for the holidays, so it's planning to offer what may be the next best thing, an upgrade coupon on new PCs.
The move was more or less a necessity since both Window Vista and Office 2007 are shipping in January, much to the consternation of PC vendors who were hoping for new software to goose Christmas sales.
The Express Upgrade to Windows Vista and Microsoft Office Technology Guarantee programs are a partnership between Microsoft, (Quote) and computer manufacturers and system builders.
Consumers and small businesses that purchase systems preloaded with Windows XP and Office 2003 between Oct. 26, 2006 and March 15, 2007 are eligible. Microsoft said in a statement that "a number" of computer manufacturers worldwide have plans to participate in the Express Upgrade program, but did not name names.
For the smaller PC makers, known as system builders, to participate, the customer must purchase a computer that qualifies as a Windows Vista Capable PC. The specs on a Vista Capable PC are fairly lax – a processor running at at least 800MHz, 512 MB of system memory and a graphics processor that is DirectX 9 capable.
However, Vista is a very top-heavy operating system and a Vista Capable machine isn't considered particularly powerful.
Machines that meet the Vista Premium requirement – a 1 GHz processor, 1GB of system memory, 40GB of hard drive space and a more advanced graphics card – are considered a better bet for running Vista efficiently.
Upgrades from Windows XP Home Edition to either Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium will be offered at a 50 percent discount from the boxed product upgrade price, plus the cost of shipping and handling. That's around $50 for Basic and $79 for Premium.
Office purchases made through participating OEMs will be eligible for an upgrade when Office 2007 is released next year. If Office was purchased through a system builder, valid proof of purchase will be required to qualify.
It's not the best solution, but as analyst Joe Wilcox of JupiterKagan points out, it's about all Microsoft can do.
"A Vista upgrade coupon isn't ideal by any means," Kagan told internetnews.com. "But no upgrade option would be worse. The guarantee is Microsoft's best effort to make good on the earlier promise it couldn't make: ship Vista in time for the holidays."