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by Mike Zazaian October 25, 2006 - 2:07pm, 1 Comment

Microsoft's Vista Capable logo on a Windows XP PC

Microsoft announced today an Express Upgrade Voucher that will allow consumers who buy Windows XP PCs a less costly upgrade to Windows Vista when it’s released at the end of January.

Microsoft will issue vouchers to anyone who buys a Windows XP PC this holiday season under the Express Upgrade to Windows Vista and Microsoft Office Technology Guarantee program. The Express Uprade Vouchers, which will be available between October 26th, 2006 and March 15th of next year, will allow those who buy Windows Vista Capable PCs to upgrade to a comparable version of Windows Vista when the it becomes available early next year. From the Vista Express Upgrade homepage:

Don’t wait to enjoy the benefits of owning a new PC. Buying a Premium Ready Windows Vista Capable PC means you can buy a great Windows XP computer today, with the confidence that it will easily upgrade to the Windows Vista edition of your choice. Express Upgrade to Windows Vista offers from participating PC manufacturers will ensure you can easily enjoy Windows XP today and Windows Vista when it’s available.

However, in true Microsoft fashion the whole Express Upgrade process seems to have been made much more complicated than necessary. Because Microsoft has produced so many versions of Windows Vista, the upgrade process will differ based on which version of Windows XP a user has. The following chart illustrates which edition of Vista a user will qualify for based on their version of Windows XP, and the relative cost of the upgrade:

  • Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 –> Windows Vista Home Premium (nominal fee)
  • Windows XP Professional –> Windows Vista Business (nominal fee)
  • Windows XP Tablet PC Edition –> Windows Vista Business (nominal fee)
  • Windows XP Professional x64 Edition –> Windows Vista Business 64 (nominal fee)
  • Windows XP Home Edition –> Windows Vista Home Basic (50% discount from the boxed product upgrade price, plus shipping and handling)
  • Windows XP Home Edition –> Windows Vista Home Premium (50% discount from the boxed product upgrade price, plus shipping and handling)

Unfortunately, as the discounts will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer the term nominal fee could mean a number of things. It’s unclear whether that figure means no charge, some charge, or whether it includes shipping and handling costs. According to the Windows Vista Team blog, Windows Vista upgrades may be offered for free or at a discounted price (shipping and handling charges may also apply), so it pays to check with the particular PC manufacturer for details specific to their offer. Indeed, there’s no set price for any of the upgrades, and it’s basically down to a free-for-all between the manufacturers as to what the Vista upgrades will cost consumers. Those who buy a PC with Windows XP Home won’t be subjected to the vagueness of the nominal fee rule, but they’ll still have to fork out between $50 and $80 to cover half the cost of a Home Basic or Home Premium upgrade.

The subjective labels of Windows Vista Capable and

Premium Ready that Microsoft has applied to upcoming PCs further complicates the process. Apparently not all PCs bearing these names will be eligible for the Express Upgrade Voucher, mostly depending upon which version of XP a consumer has. Again, this matter will come down to the discretion of the PC manufacturer, as alighted on the Vista Team Blog:

Consider looking for Windows Vista Capable PCs designated as Premium Ready, as these PCs are designed to deliver the core Windows Vista experience. PCs carrying only the Windows Vista Capable logo may be eligible for the program, but the offer may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Don’t worry if this article has confused the hell out of you, as it’s very confusing to us as well. At this point all that’s known for certain is that Microsoft will be offering a somewhat discounted upgrade to Vista for those who buy XP PCs in the next few months, but that the terms of the upgrade are dependent almost entirely upon PC manufacturers. Also, the PC manufacturer won’t be responsible for upgrading or installing the new Vista OS at all. Instead, Microsoft is leaving this up to the consumer.

What at first seemed like a useful program for consumers, manufacturers alike has been bogged down and bastardized by the indecisiveness of the Microsoft machine. With several versions of Vista to choose from, and a virtually unlimited array of costs for the Express Upgrade from PC manufacturers, our advice is to wait until Vista-loaded PCs are available at the end of January.

Read the Windows Vista Team Blog
Read the Register
Check out Microsoft’s Express Upgrade homepage