Microsoft Touts Upgrade Coupons, Road Show

Windows Vista

The Express Upgrade programs, which officially launched Oct. 26, give buyers of new PCs free or discounted upgrade coupons to Vista and Office 2007 until March 15. As part of those Vista and Office Technology Guarantee Programs, most upgrades for business users are free, except for shipping and handling. OEMs and system builders will be required to ship PCs designated as Windows Vista Capable or Vista Premium Ready to qualify for the new SKUs with coupons.

For example, the Express Upgrade to Windows Vista Business Edition is free for customers that buy PCs pre-loaded with Windows XP or XP Tablet PC Edition via participating OEMs and system builders. And buyers of Windows XP Pro x64 Edition systems will be entitled to a coupon for a free upgrade to Vista Business x64 Edition, Microsoft said.

System builders also will have more ammunition to pitch Office 2007 upgrades with their systems during the holiday season and through the first quarter.

Customers that buy a PC between Oct. 26 and March 15, 2007 with Office 2003 preinstalled will receive a free upgrade coupon for a similar edition of Office 2007, according to Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. Users that purchase the full retail version of Office 2003 between Oct. 26 and Feb. 28, 2007 also will receive a coupon.

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"Microsoft also made a site that will allow you to download the coupon and apply it to OS sales from Oct. 26 or later," said Jeff Di Bella, vice president of sales at AOpen Center, Gaithersburg, Md. "This is huge for us because we don't need to carry more SKUs. It is also a great selling feature because we can push people to buy and not wait for Vista and Office 2007."

John Ball, general manager of Microsoft's U.S. System Builder Partners Group, acknowledged that corporate midmarket and enterprise customers likely will hold off upgrading to Vista until later in 2007, but he expects small businesses will be the first to adopt Vista and Office 2007 out of the gate.

"This is our first big launch of training into this channel," Ball said, noting that Microsoft will demonstrate Vista apps and Verified By Intel mobile PCs running Vista and will hold one-on-one meetings. "We think system builders can push Vista straight away."