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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why Windows 7 should be a free upgrade

Opinion: Microsoft would have happy customers and still make money


Should Microsoft offer a free upgrade to a basic version of Windows 7?

Windows Vista isn't a bad OS - now. But it's had its problems. Third parties didn't make drivers fast enough, bugs affected obscure features such as, er, copying and deleting files, and Vista Capable PCs were nothing of the sort.

Not all of the problems were Microsoft's fault, but Microsoft's name is on the box - so if people have a less than stellar experience with Vista, it's Microsoft they're going to blame.

Credit where credit's due, Microsoft appears to have got it right with Windows 7. It boots in less than a fortnight. It doesn't make our laptop shoot up to 100% CPU usage for no good reason, generating enough heat to cook a moose. It goes like lightning on machines that struggled with Vista. It's very good. In fact, it's great. Which is why Microsoft should give it away.

People paid good money for Vista expecting to receive a racehorse, and Microsoft sent them a pig in a wig instead. If that hasn't already scared them into the arms of Steve Jobs, they're still going to be wary about giving Microsoft any money ever again. So Microsoft shouldn't ask them for any.

Instead of flogging eleventy-two badly named and badly differentiated versions of Windows 7, Microsoft could easily offer two. The first, which it could call Windows 7 Essentials, would be the core OS, and it would be an upgrade for Vista SP1. The second would include touchscreen support and other sparkly things, and it would be Windows 7 Ultimate. Essentials would be free, with Ultimate as a reasonably priced upgrade.

Madness? Nope. Microsoft doesn't make that much money from OS upgrades: the real cash comes from new PCs. Giving Vista users a free upgrade wouldn't affect that much, but it would make a lot of people feel warm and fuzzy about Microsoft. Many of them would upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate. Many of them would use Windows Live, and Office, and other Microsoft products. And when it's time to buy a new PC, it might just keep them out of the Apple Store.

Microsoft won't do it. But it should.


Now read TechRadar's Hands on: Windows 7 Beta 1 review