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Windows 8 upgrade deals may be double-edged sword

By offering users of Windows 7, XP and Vista discounts to upgrade to Windows 8, Microsoft is putting itself in a position to reap both benefits and criticism in the consumer operating system market.

Giving PC owners an incentive to put Windows 8 on their machines helps Microsoft because, if they upgrade, they will be less likely to switch to a competing platform just as Apple's Mac OS.

However, because Windows 8's main technology is its Metro interface, designed with touchscreens in mind, consumers who upgrade now could be disappointed if their machine can't take advantage of the new functionality.

"The low-cost upgrade to Windows 8 is a wise strategy for Microsoft. The cost of upgrading is the main reason people stay on outdated versions of Windows," said David Johnson, a Forrester Technology analyst.

The offers show that Microsoft is all things considered beginning to understand the strategic cost of having huge numbers of consumers on old versions of Windows, he said via email. Windows XP, for instance, first shipped in 2001.

"Being forced by their employers to work on Windows XP has been driving people toward Macs and tablets," Johnson said. "Microsoft's future viability depends on how fast it can get new value in the hands of users. A high cost of upgrading has been slowing them down."

However, the upgrade incentives can be a double-edged sword, because touchscreens, touchpads and mice that support gestures are important to providing a good experience with Windows 8, according to Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst.

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"Most PCs that will in effect make Windows 8 work then won't ship until the OS does. People upgrading older PCs is in fact a risk for Microsoft because they may not be as happy as users that have new PCs tuned for Windows 8," Silver said. "Users that upgrade should ensure they have either a touchscreen or a touchpad or touch mouse that supports gestures in Windows 8."

Microsoft should help users understand how suitable their existing system is for Windows 8, however it's unlikely the company will go as far as to advise users to reconsider their input devices while a Windows 8 compatibility check, he said via email.

One of the offers is directed at consumers who buy new Windows 7 PCs between June 2 and Jan. 31 then year. Available in 131 markets, this offer lets these clients upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $14.99.

Microsoft hasn't disclosed retail prices for shrink-wrapped, standalone versions of Windows 8, nevertheless the current equivalent to Windows 8 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, is priced at $199.99.

Windows 7 editions that qualify for this offer are Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate. It doesn't cover Windows 7 Starter, the most basic version for consumers, nor Windows 7 Enterprise, designed for workplace PCs.

More information: Networkworld
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