Microsoft Plans New Vista, Office Promos For Local System Builders

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As part of version 3.0 of its Buy Local online program, the Redmond, Wash., software giant will offer four new promotions on Vista and Office that will enable system builders to add value to and differentiate new PCs from offerings from large OEMs such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

Three of the promotions are aimed at selling Vista Home Premium PC, Vista Ultimate and Vista Business PCs, Microsoft said. And for the first time, one of the promotions is designed to drive sales of Office Professional 2007 and Office Small Business Edition 2007 through the channel, said John Ball, general manager of U.S. local OEM business for Microsoft.

In addition to the Office software, system builders will be able to offer customers a free wireless print server that serves up to four PCs. "With version 3.0, we tried to use the framework so partners can leverage and put Office in place and tie it to new features in Vista," Ball said.

The promotions will be available through distribution Jan. 30, Microsoft said.

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Ball said the promotions aren't available to large OEMs. "It has to be sold through a local OEM," Ball said, noting that Microsoft's latest Buy Local online promotion site steers online customers to local system builders.

Microsoft also is kicking off a Vista Business promotion that consists of the Vista Business code, a free 2-Gbyte ReadyBoost-enabled flash drive to raise performance, and a pocket-size wireless router that enables users to set up a wireless network ad hoc, such as at an airport or a meeting, and to collaborate with others using Vista's Meeting Space feature, Microsoft said.

On the consumer side, Microsoft is launching a promotion for Vista Home Premium Edition that entitles PC buyers to a free 2-Gbyte flash drive from Kingston and an HDTV card.

Those who buy PCs preloaded with Vista Ultimate -- a high-end offering that combines Vista's business and consumer features -- are entitled to four free products: the flash drive, the HDTV card, a D-Link wireless router and an Epson digital photo printer. The four products are valued at $330 and are subsidized by Microsoft and its hardware partners.

Ball said the version 3.0 online promotions will go a long way in helping offerings from local OEMs stand out from top-tier OEM boxes. "It's been tough for the channel in the last few years, and we're trying to create unique differentiation and give them a leg up over their competition," he said.

The last Buy Local online program, version 2.0, featured a bundle consisting of Windows XP and a free wireless router, Microsoft said.