The Windows 7 sham

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CONSUMERS HOLDING "FREE"WINDOWS 7 UPGRADE VOUCHERS ARE IN FORA SHOCK WHEN THEY COME TO REDEEM THEM FINDS TIM DANTON

People who bought Windows Vista PCs in recent months may have been reassured to find an upgrade voucher for Windows 7 waiting in the box. What many of those voucher holders don't realize is that the "free" upgrade voucher may end up costing them £30. The Windows 7 Upgrade Option programme is designed to prevent PC sales from grinding to a hail in the run-up to its release, by offering buyers of Vista PCs a smooth upgrade path to Windows 7. However, it seems both Microsoft and selected PC vendors are using it as an excuse to squeeze a little more revenue out of PC buyers. PC Pro investigated the upgrade policy of 12 leading PC manufacturers. No fewer than ten of them are demanding extra payments from customers before they send out Windows 7 upgrade discs. Fujitsu, at €36 (around £32), is the most expensive. Four other leading PC manufacturers - HP, Lenova, Sony and Toshiba - are all demanding in excess of £20, while Dell declined to divulge how inudi it would be charging customers. Why do PC makers feel the need to charge customers who've recently paid hundreds - if not thousands of pounds - to simply send out a new disc? Many of the PC manufacturers blame extra shipping and handling costs. Others claim to be throwing in additional extras for the fee. Toshiba, for instance, is also including a bundle of manufacturer specific drivers with the Windows 7 disc, as well as sending the package via recorded delivery.

Other PC manufacturers are apportioning blame to Microsoft, claiming the software giant is itself cashing in on the Windows 7 upgrades. PC Specialist's John Medley told PC Pro that: "since 26 June 2009, Microsoft has been selling two different SKUs through distribution for each version of Vista. One Wit includes the upgrade voucher and one doesn't. The SKU with the upgrade voucher is f10 extra." In the light of such information, the £20 charges for Windows 7 upgrades suddenly don't seem outlandish. But is
Microsoft setting its PC partners up for a fall, when customers suddenly realize they're going to be tapped for extra money for what, on the surface at least. appears to be a free upgrade? "We give manufacturers complete control over the prugrai rime," said Laurence Painell, Windows OEM & WGA product manager. "Obviously, they have varying levels of cost, whether it be in support, procurement or distribution costs associated with the nature of the product they're shipping, and as such it really is their decision as to how much they charge their customers and the process they go through." Microsoft's Windows 7 Upgrade Option website (www.mIcrosoft.com/windovvsibuy/offersiu pgrade.aspx) astutely avoids using the ward "free" in conjunction with the offer. Some of Microsoft's PC partners aren't sn careful, however. Lenovo's site brashly boasts of a "FREE Windows 7 Upgrade program", before using the obligatory asterisks to explain that a handling fee applies. Other PC retailers visited by PC Pro are also bandying the word "free" around as part of their in-store promotions. "Our recommendation to consumers is very much to check with the retailer or the manufacturer at the time of purchase to understand exactly what the implications of the upgrade programme are," Microsoft's Paine!! advised. Nat all PC companies are forcing customers to pay more for the upgrade.

British PC manufacturers Mesh and Chillblast are both dishing out the discs for free, which will be sent directly from a Microsoft-approved partner. Yet, some people question whether the companies that are up front about the charges are actually any gulltler than Mesh and Chillblast. "Perhaps the ones who are charging £20 plus are the ones who are passing on the cost transparently to the customers who want the upgrades. Whereas others may just be burying the cost, meaning that customers who aren't using these upgrades are still footing some of the bill (for example, by putting flO on the cost of every PC sold, which is easy to do when products change often and are made of a variety of components)," argued PC Pro forum member halsteadk. Whichever way you view the ethics of applying extra charges for the Windows 7 upgrades, it's still likely to stick in the craw of anyone who has to foot an unexpected bill - especially given Microsoft's recent announcement that students will be able to download the full version of Windows 7 Professional for only f30 - £7 less than Fujitsu's upgrade discs. Why couldn't Microsoft at least have provided the option of a free Windows 7 download and product key to all those enrolled in the upgrade scheme, thus avoiding the on seemly costs associated with distributing physical media? The software giant's unfortunately knack of turning a positive into a negative shows no sign of diminishing.

Source of Information : PC Pro December 2009

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