Windows 7 upgrade campaign savings limited for enterprises

Program stipulates only 25 PCs per company can qualify for the low- to no-cost upgrade

Enterprises ready to restock with new PCs and take advantage of Microsoft's Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program might find the cost savings to be less than originally thought.

Under this program, to debut tomorrow, anyone who buys a PC from a participating manufacturer or retailer that is fitted with a Windows Vista OS will receive upgrades to Windows 7 at little or no cost. Windows 7 is set to debut in 14 languages, including English, on October 22. The upgrade program runs until January 31.

[ Windows XP users could face their own Windows 7 upgrade disaster. ]

But there is a catch: there is a limit of 25 PCs per individual under the program. A single company counts as an individual, a Microsoft representative added on Thursday.

"Specifically designated PCs that are pre-installed with Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business, or Windows Vista Ultimate may qualify for an upgrade to the equivalent Windows 7 product," a Microsoft representative said. "Similarly, in some markets, retail-packaged Windows Vista software products (sold separately from PCs) may also qualify for an upgrade to the equivalent Windows 7 product."

Manufacturers, or OEMS, and retailers may charge a nominal stocking or shipping fee pertaining to the arrangement.

Microsoft's limit of 25 PCs is unfair to enterprises, analyst Michael Silver, research vice president at Gartner, said. "I think it also encourages companies to monkey around with their purchasing programs," by waiting until October 22 to purchase PCs.

Still, individual hardware vendors might just give enterprises the free upgrades anyway beyond the 25-PC limit, Silver reasoned. Or, they could negotiate with Microsoft. "Everything's negotiable, but if you don't ask, you don't get," he said.

Microsoft, Silver said, would prefer enterprises adopt the company's Software Assurance program, which offers automatic upgrades but costs an annual fee, which has turned off some companies. "They think Microsoft is double-charging them," under Software Assurance, said Silver.

Estimated retail prices fore the full packaged Windows 7 product in the United States range from $199.99 for the Premium edition to $319.99 for the Ultimate variant. Upgrade pricing for Windows 7 ranges from $119.99 for the Home Premium edition to $219.99 for the Ultimate product.

Windows 7 offers features like a redesigned Windows TaskBar that are intended to make a PC simpler and easier to use. The latest in the Windows line would follow the much-maligned Vista, which has been criticized over issues such as performance, compatibility, and cost.

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