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Microsoft Vista Express Program Underway

To help spur PC sales during the holiday selling season and set the stage for the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft has introduced the Windows Vista Express program.

Vista Express provides PC buyers with a free or reduced price for the upcoming Windows Vista operating system if they buy a computer between Oct. 26, 2006, and March 15, 2007. The amount charged, if any, for the upgrade will depend upon the computer manufacturer and the retailer. Microsoft said Vista will launch on Jan. 30, 2007.

To be eligible a consumer must buy a Vista-ready computer loaded with Windows XP or Windows Media Center Edition 2005. Logos on the packaging and products stating Vista Premium Ready will indicate which models can operate the new OS. The customer will either go to a store to pick up the software, download it online or obtain it through the mail.

Gateway reported that all Vista-ready Gateway-branded computers bought direct from the company during the allotted period will receive the new OS free. Hewlett-Packard will do the same. Customers who buy a computer with Windows XP will be upgraded to the Vista Basic, a scaled-down version of the OS. Computers equipped with Windows Media Center Edition 2005 will get Vista Premium and businesses buying XP Pro will receive Vista Business, said an HP spokeswoman.

The Vista Express upgrade program is similar to those put in place prior to the release of earlier Microsoft operating systems, said the HP spokeswoman. However, with the product’s release falling after the holidays and the busy January PC selling period, the industry has expressed confidence about the release this time.

Kevin Jones, Micro Center’s merchandising VP, said the program is a huge plus for his chain.

“In our environment, with its early adopters, it is a necessity,” he said, adding the general population probably is not aware of Vista and would go ahead with a purchase, but Micro Center’s customers are aware and would likely postpone a purchase until Vista’s release date.

Working through all its PC vendors, Jones said, Micro Center will offer free upgrades to Vista even though it required the company to pay a little extra upfront for each computer, a fee that will not be passed along to the end user.