Microsoft to Offer Free Windows 7 Upgrades to New Vista Customers: Report

To encourage consumers to keep buying Windows Vista PCs this year despite Windows 7 's looming release, Microsoft Corp. will give away free Windows 7 upgrades to people buying PCs with Windows Vista until as late as January 31 of next year, according to a report.

The report, from the Malaysian blog TechARP.com, which has called similar details correctly in the past, is another clue that Microsoft plans to release Windows 7 before year's end, said Matt Rosoff , an analyst with the independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.

Citing purported confidential memos from Microsoft, TechARP.com had earlier reported that the Windows 7 Upgrade Program will begin July 1 of this year.

That would mean that any Vista PCs purchased between then and January 31, 2010 are eligible for free upgrades to Windows 7.

TechARP reported today that those Windows 7 upgrade DVDs should be delivered by PC makers to customers by April 30, 2010 . These dates are "open to change," TechARP reported.

The veracity of the report "seems reasonable to me," said Rosoff. "If they're soliciting OEM feedback now, that points to a possible release in time for holiday 2009."

Microsoft declined to comment on the TechARP report.

"Microsoft often explores options with our partners to determine product offerings," a spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "We are not announcing anything new at this time."

TechARP correctly named the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) dates for several Windows editions last year.

In Microsoft's prior Vista Express upgrade program, Windows XP PCs bought between October 26, 2006 and March 15, 2007 were eligible for free Vista upgrades.

Microsoft launched Vista to consumers officially on January 30th, or 45 days before the program's eligibility ended.

The program was plagued with delays , with consumers waiting weeks or months to get their Vista upgrade DVDs mailed to them.

TechARP has other purported details from the upgrade program, including screenshots and upgrade paths.

"The program sounds very similar to what they did before Vista," Rosoff said. "I think the terms are slightly different, but that's because there were fewer [versions] in XP, so the edition upgrade paths were similar."

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