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Microsoft Luring SMBs Away From XP, Office 2003

Microsoft is getting frustrated with the slow pace of Windows and Office upgrades among SMBs, and a new program dangles the powerful carrot of cost savings in order to accelerate the process.

Microsoft's "Up To Date Discount," which runs through June 30, gives customers with Open Value subscriptions 50 percent off the first year's payment on Windows 7 Professional Upgrade or Microsoft Office Professional, wrote Eric Ligman, global partner experience lead in Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, in a New Year's Day blog post.

For the first time, Microsoft is extending the Up To Date Discount to customers running not just the previous version of Windows and Office, but the version prior to that. This means companies running Windows XP Professional can take advantage of the offer to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, while in the past, the deal would have been limited to those running Windows Vista Business.

Microsoft will launch Office 2010 in June, and until then, the upgrade offer will apply to customers running versions as old as Office XP Professional. Once Office 2010 hits the market, however, the offer will extend only to customers running Office 2003 Professional, according to Ligman.

Under the new "Up To Date Discount" terms, customers in the U.S. can upgrade to Windows 7 Professional at a cost of $35 in the first year, while an Office 2007 Professional would run them $91 for the first year. In addition, by virtue of the Software Assurance coverage included in the Open Value Subscription, customers would also get a free upgrade to Office 2010 when it launches.

Launched in 2008, the Open Value Subscription Program lets partners and customers in the U.S. and Canada "subscribe" to the Microsoft software they want to use in a "lease-like" fashion. The program doesn't involve an actual lease, but does allow organizations to pay to use software for a specific period of time and adjust their software usage as needed.

By expanding the Up To Date Discount program, Microsoft is showing its resolve to chip away at the calcified resistance to upgrading software that SMBs have long exhibited. XP is still the predominant operating system within the SMB space, but by using discounts as a lure, Microsoft may succeed in changing that.

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