Microsoft has announced that its Windows 7 Upgrade Option Programme will start tomorrow, enabling customers to go out and buy a new PC with Windows Vista on it "with confidence", safe in the knowledge that they can soon upgrade "to the Windows PC they wanted".
In a phone briefing with PC Advisor today, Microsoft said the upgrade scheme will run from 26 June until January 2010 and enable PC and laptop customers to dump Vista for free or for a nominal fee.
A global initiative, the Windows 7 Upgrade Option Programme is designed to encourage PC customers to buy a new Windows Vista PC or laptop now with the promise of an upgrade to Windows 7 for free or for a nominal shipping fee once the OS launches on 22 October. The fee is set by the vendor, rather than by Microsoft.
All the major PC and laptop makers are participating in the Upgrade Option scheme, says Microsoft, as are all major PC retailers. Amazon UK, Currys, Dixons, PC World and Comet are among the UK retailers that will participate in the Windows 7 Upgrade Option Programme.
Alan Dardis, senior category manager for Dixons Store Group said "There is growing excitement around the launch of Windows 7 as a result of the beta trials that have been taking place, both from within the industry and from our customers.
"Putting this upgrade program in place so early means that the people who want to buy a new PC now won't miss out on the on the new advances that Windows 7 will offer."
Details of the vendors and PC makers that have signed up to the Windows 7 Upgrade Option Programme can be found at: http://www.microsoft.com/uk/upgradeoffer.
Curran told PC Advisor that, as was the case with Windows Vista, PC users buying a new machine in the run-up the launch of the new OS will receive a voucher that can be redeemed in return for upgrade media enabling them to receive a "like for like" upgrade to the equivalent version of Windows 7.
For example, someone buying a Vista Home Premium PC between tomorrow and 21 October will get a voucher they can swap for a DVD containing Windows 7 Home Premium. This can be used to perform an "in-place upgrade" to Windows 7.
A Home Premium user wishing to upgrade to another version of Windows 7 will need to redeem their code and perform the like for like upgrade and then pay "an incremental amount" for the relevant Anytime Upgrade. Anytime Upgrade is the phrase Microsoft uses to describe the ability to unlock features in Windows, turning a Home Premium or Business OS into a copy of Windows Ultimate.
The scheme to shift Vista PCs and laptops will run until 31 January 2010, with vouchers redeemable until the end of February.
Windows 7, Microsoft's next operating system, will go onsale in the UK and the US on 22 October and will initially be available in 14 language editions. In a one-on-one briefing with Microsoft today, PC Advisor was told that Windows 7 will be available in all the other languages Microsoft supports from 31 October. This, said the Microsoft spokesman John Curran, is the quickest the company has rolled out an OS globally.