Plus Acer says that Vista is a clever disguise for a Windows price hike

Those who were paying attention when Microsoft formally announced its Windows Vista Upgrade program might have noticed that the new OS' top variant, Vista Ultimate, is unavailable for upgrade. No matter which version of Windows XP a consumer purchases with a new PC this holiday season, there will be no discounted upgrade path to Vista Ultimate.

This is how the program works: upgrades from Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 to Windows Vista Home Premium, and upgrades from Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition to Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Business 64, will be offered for a nominal fee. Upgrades from Windows XP Home Edition to Windows Vista Home Basic and to Windows Vista Home Premium will be offered at a 50 percent discount from the boxed product upgrade price, plus the cost of shipping and handling.

"There is currently no upgrade path under the Tech Guarantee programs from Windows XP to Ultimate, since Vista Ultimate is an entirely new high end product with significant functionality and value-added compared to existing high end Windows XP product," stated Microsoft in an email to iTWire.

Consumers who wish to run the top level of Windows Vista may find themselves holding off on a purchase until the new operating system launches early 2007.

In other potentially unsettling Windows Vista news, top OEM Acer claims that the most basic version of Vista (Home Basic) is so poorly featured that consumers will simply reject it, according to PC Pro.

"The new [Vista] experience you hear of, if you get Basic, you won't feel it at all," said Jim Wong, senior corporate vice president at Acer. "There's no [Aero] graphics, no Media Center, no remote control."

Wong says that part of the problem is that many of the new features that Microsoft have advertised about its upcoming OS are not found in Vista Home Basic, but rather Vista Home Premium, which he calls "the real Vista."

Wong also expressed displeasure at Microsoft raising the price of its manufacturer's license by 10 percent price from XP Home to Vista Home Basic. This directly affects PC manufacturer's bottom lines, as Wong comments, "We have to pay more but users are not going to pay more." The change in licensing pricing raises the cost to build a PC by one to two percent, which represents a significant portion of an OEM's margin.

All versions of Windows Vista are slated for January 2007 appearance. Windows Vista was set to be released to manufacturers in late October, but now faces a two week delay due to a last minute bug hunt.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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