It's hard to argue that Windows Vista hasn't been a disappointment for Microsoft. And it hopes the next version, Windows 7, will reverse its fortunes.

Despite the fact that early reviews of Windows 7 provide reasons for hope, the success of it is far from certain. One of the biggest unknowns: whether or not Microsoft's new Windows Anytime Upgrade will sink or swim.

Windows 7 will come in six flavors, two of which (Home Premium and Professional) will be widely available to consumers via retail licensing. Other flavors will be made available to OEMs and in select markets.

What is Windows Anytime Upgrade? Put simply, it will enable consumers to upgrade to a more feature-rich flavor of Windows 7 by purchasing a license online, which will 'unlock' the functionality of the version purchased (which is already present but deactivated).

Microsoft hopes that this will make it possible for users to more easily select their desired version of Windows 7; it will also give OEMs the ability to bundle less expensive versions of Windows 7 with their machines.

The big question, however, is whether or not Anytime Upgrade is a good idea. From a consumer standpoint, it's a mixed bag. While it sounds great than an OEM can bundle Windows 7 Starter on a netbook while maintaining competitive pricing, for instance, Windows 7 Starter has been described as 'crippled' since some of its limitations include the ability to only run 3 applications at once; anything more than that requires an Anytime Upgrade.

Needless to say, Microsoft runs a real risk of making consumers feel nickel and dimed. While the economics of Microsoft's model make sense from Microsoft's standpoint (it it looking for ways to remain competitive on price and hopefully maintain margins in the face of pressure on its core business), one has to wonder if this is an otherwise sensible model that really isn't so sensible in the OS market.

After all, previous versions of Windows never had limitations like this and although various versions of Windows did exist, I'd bet that few mainstream consumers can explain the difference between Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate. That's because they weren't missing core functionality and being reminded to upgrade.

Even if Windows 7 is a great improvement over Vista, Microsoft has to be very careful in my opinion. The Anytime Upgrade model, if abused, could turn an otherwise good OS into another disappointment.

Photo credit: impresa.mccabe via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 5 May, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

You have to hand it to Microsoft, for putting themselves first and forget the customer.

How can they limit the user to three apps at a  time? Skype, email and browser and you're chance to listen to music in parallel? No chance to pop open some photo editing...

It could even push users to online applications - Google Docs et al - as each 'app' then becomes just a browser tab, so can run as many as you like!

Closer to the hearts of all of us on eConsultancy - we know the £millions lost by web designers struggling with IE6's weird ways... due to MS lack of comittment to standards.

Imagine a world without Firefox, the success of which kicked MS to u-turn on their previous line that IE6 was to be the last browser version.

Looking at the logs of our web monitoring portal, there are still blue-chip companies out there whose staff are only permitted to use IE6...and talking to  them, it's because some of their intranet apps were developed for IE6, and don't work on IE7 or other browsers... so the company is left like the movie 'the land that time forgot' using the IE6 dinosaur !


about 9 years ago

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