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Windows 7 Upgrade Workaround a 'Hack'?

Doug is out for today, but will be back for Friday's edition. Meanwhile, helping fill in for him today is Online News Editor Kurt Mackie.

Microsoft rolled out its latest OS last month during a profound world economic downturn. The word "consumer" may finally disappear from the U.S. lexicon as credit-busted, increasingly jobless Americans hunker down, saving perhaps a few lumps of coal for the approaching winter.

Though consumers actually bolstered Vista sales when it was first introduced in late 2006, Vista's poor driver support early on, as well as its additional hardware requirements, steered many IT pros away from upgrading. In fact, IT pros showed such a resolute rejection of Vista that about 80 percent of commercial PCs still use XP, according to a Forrester Research third-quarter report.

Even the ebullient Steve Ballmer wasn't particularly optimistic about current IT spending prospects. He told reporters in South Korea on Monday that while the economy may see some growth, there will be no "recovery." He also acknowledged tight budgets for IT departments.

Given all of that, Microsoft has priced a full version of Windows 7 Professional at $299, according to the Microsoft Store (it's $18 cheaper at Amazon.com). However, if you have a copy of XP or Vista licensed to run on a particular PC and you want to upgrade that same machine to Windows 7, the upgrade version of Windows 7 Professional costs $100 less.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," it's said. Some people are eyeing that $100 "discount" by trying to use Windows 7 upgrade media to perform clean installs. This Windows 7 upgrade "hack," which could cut into Microsoft's Windows revenues, elicited a reaction from the company: The hack apparently can work, according to Microsoft, but the resulting installation is illegal per Microsoft's end user license agreement.

The illegalness of this Windows 7 upgrade hack was emphasized by Eric Ligman, a global partner experience lead at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, in a Microsoft blog. A reader of that blog shot back, saying, "Why wouldn't Microsoft make a gesture of good faith by rewarding savvy computer users who can pull off the hack with this $80-$100 discount? It sounds like good PR to me, but I am just a savvy computer user, not a PR guy."

Of course, those IT pros who deal with Microsoft's volume licensing policies will likely submit meekly to them rather than try any sort of hack. It's the consumers, that vanishing breed, that will still fight back against a Microsoft policy that compels them to associate the OS license with their aging PC hardware. For them, upgrade pricing and full-edition pricing just seem designed to give Microsoft's profits an arbitrary boost.

Should Microsoft give consumer users a break? And have any of you actually tried the upgrade hack? Answers welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Kurt Mackie on 11/04/2009 at 1:17 PM


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