Microsoft Limits Free Windows 7 Upgrades

Businesses who are thinking about upgrading more than a handful of computers between now and the October 22nd release of Windows 7 may want to hold off. That is, assuming the companies want the latest OS. While it’s true that Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to its new OS, the company has made little mention of the “fine print” that limits the number of free upgrades to 25.

Gartner analyst Michael Silver is calling attention to this limit with his latest research note. In his note, Silver writes, "Microsoft has limited the number of free Windows 7 upgrades that can be claimed via its Windows Upgrade Option…. Organizations need to understand their Windows 7 requirements and obtain rights for the best value."

Just last week, Microsoft fleshed out the details of the Windows Upgrade Option program for the first time. Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc disclosed the details in a blog post. He wrote: "Anyone who buys a PC from a participating OEM or retailer with Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate on it will all receive an upgrade to the corresponding version at little or no cost to customers."

Silver speculates that Microsoft might be limiting the number of PCs that are eligible for this upgrade in order to increase sales of its Software Assurance licenses. Software Assurance provides businesses with unlimited upgrades for three years, but companies must pay between $100 and $150 per PC for this right.

For companies that need to upgrade more than 25 PCs between now and October 22, Silver recommends contacting PC manufacturers and asking for the right to upgrade later at no cost. Because large OEMs administer their own programs, they have greater ability to do this and are able to make exceptions for organizations.