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Microsoft is ... well, pissing me off.

Paul Thurrott had an interesting rant in today's WinInfo, which I included behind the cut tag.

Have Fun Purchasing Vista

by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@windowsitpro.com

When I learned that Microsoft would sell an unprecedented number of Windows Vista product versions, I questioned the reasoning behind the company's decision. I felt that consumers would be confused by the myriad of options available and that the diversification of the Windows product line would cause support headaches.

Clearly, I suffer from a lack of imagination; the situation is much worse than I ever thought it could be now that Vista is widely available. Simply counting the number of Vista versions Microsoft is currently selling is futile. There's Vista Starter, Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, and Vista Ultimate. But there are also the so-called N versions of Vista Home Premium and Vista Business in the European Union (where, I believe, N stands for "no one is interested"). There are separate Upgrade and full versions of Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium (and Vista Home Premium N), Vista Business (and Vista Business N), and Vista Ultimate. And although Vista Ultimate includes both 32-bit and 64-bit media in the retail box, Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, and Vista Business all ship in separate 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Are there separate 32-bit and 64-bit Upgrade and full versions of these products? You know, I'm not sure.

Businesses, by the way, qualify for volume licensing. There are numerous prices, and it's always cheaper if Microsoft can convince you to buy Vista right away. Volume-license customers qualify for their own versions of Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, and Vista Ultimate. Vista Enterprise has one almost assuredly useless but unique feature: You can install as many as four more copies of Vista Enterprise on virtual machines. There's just one hitch: All the copies have to be running on the same PC that's running the first Vista version you bought.

And let's talk about OEM versions for a bit. Online retailers are selling low-cost OEM versions of Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, Vista Business, and Vista Ultimate. These products are identical to the full retail versions of Vista, but they come without documentation, retail packaging, support, and, as it turns out, the humongous price tags. Smart buyers are snapping up the OEM versions before Microsoft realizes there's a loophole allowing these products-- which are legally available only to system builders--to be sold to individuals.

OEM versions aren't the only surreptitious way to get more than you paid for. According to my sources, you can purchase a retail Upgrade version of Vista and perform a pseudo-clean install, without having to have a previous version of Windows. It's a handy way to save money if you don't mind cheating a bit. I wonder if Microsoft will cut that off when Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) ships later this year. (You know ... the Vista SP1 that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer embarrassingly continues to deny is in the works.)

But wait, there's more. Consumers who purchase new PCs online can get Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, Vista Business, or Vista Ultimate with their systems by choosing which version they want at configuration time. If you purchase an XP-based PC before March 15, you can get a free or low-cost version of Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium via your PC maker, depending on the version of XP you bought. And if you got stuck with a low-end Vista version for some reason, take heart: You can use Windows Anytime Upgrade to upgrade electronically from Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, and Vista Business to better versions. Take your time: The upgrades will be available whenever you're ready.

If you buy the full retail version of Vista Ultimate, you qualify for Microsoft's Windows Vista Family Discount program, which lets you electronically purchase two additional licenses for Vista Home Premium for just $50 each. Are these full versions of Vista Home Premium, or are they Upgrade versions? No one knows yet, because Microsoft's Web site hasn't been fulfilling requests for the past 24 hours and its support center has no idea when users call. I'm sure that will get sorted out eventually.

There's more. Oh yes, there's always more, because Microsoft is being particularly inventive about taking your money this time around. If you're too lazy to actually get off your couch and drive to Best Buy, Microsoft will sell you full and Upgrade versions of Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, Vista Business, and Vista Ultimate via its Windows Marketplace Web site. I fully expect Vista to be included in cereal boxes, given out with new car purchases, and sold by street vendors in in New York by the end of the year. Come to think of it, the latter might already be a reality.

My favorite part of this chaotic silliness is the myriad ways in which you can start from a bare PC and work up to a Vista Ultimate powerhouse. Consider this scenario: You purchased a new PC in late 2006 with XP Home Edition. Using the Vista Express Upgrade program, you receive your free copy of Vista Home Basic in early 2007 and use it to upgrade your PC. Later, you decide that you want more functionality, so you use Windows Anytime Upgrade to upgrade to Vista Home Premium. Later, you can use the same service to upgrade to Vista Ultimate. In this scenario, Microsoft got paid three times (once for XP, twice for Vista), and you probably had to upgrade your RAM and video card as well. In short, the whole PC industry benefits. My question is, once you upgrade to Vista Ultimate, do you qualify for family licensing? Of course not.

Am I forgetting something? Probably. Because if there's a single truth about the new Windows version, it's that Microsoft will stop at nothing to ensure that you get the copy of Vista you so richly deserve. How you do it, and how much money, time, and effort you expend, is completely up to you.

Back to me now: There is something else that is boiling around right now. As some of you might know, there will be a change to Daylight Saving Time that will affect operating systems and other time sensative items, such as Exchange. Microsoft has their wonderful support policy in place, wherein they stop doing non-security support for items in a specified period of time, in order to focus all of their technical attention on the newer products. Will they offer the DST updates for things like Exchange 2000? Well, originally the answer was "Yes, if you are under an Extended Support Agreement and willing to pay $40,000 for the update." How about Windows 2000? Same answer. And rest assured, that is an ADDITIONAL $40,000 for the update.

Aparently, they heard enough screams from corporations, and have now changed their answer. The new answer is "Yes, you can get the DST 2007 updates for all items in Extended Support for only $4,000 total." Great news! How do I sign up? Several days and phone calls to the Technical Account Manager later, and we're told that we can wait a few days for them to set up a process to accept purchase Orders, or call Customer Service with credit card and get the updates now. Great.

After arguing with my boss, it's decided that I will use my credit card so we can get the updates quickly. So I follow the instructions on the email our TAM provided -- called the 800 number and asked for the updates. Oh, you're a Premier customer. You shouldn't be calling this number. Let me transfer you. ... Oh, you can't call up for that. The TAM has to arrange for it. *slap* I ask why, then, did the TAM send out information that said you were to be able to do this? And the answer was "Uhm, I don't know. Let me try to get a hold of your TAM." He wasn't able to, so he basically shrugged me off.

The left hand of Microsoft had no idea what the right hand was doing, and here I am, stuck in the middle waiting to pay $4,000 for updates. *sigh* Did I mention that there is only a little over five weeks until this goes into effect?


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 31st, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC)
M$ has truly taken over from IBM in the left hand-right hand-brain disjunction category.
Jan. 31st, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)

A friend of mine called me up yesterday and said "Guess what I got! Vista, yay!! :D" To which I said "YOU DID WHAT???"

Sure enough, we spent the rest of the night searching for Vista drivers for him. Don't even get me started on the idiotic volume licensing; I'm just glad I'm not doing IT anymore. Especially with the Daylight Savings Time thing. Ouch.
Feb. 1st, 2007 04:42 am (UTC)
I fully expect Vista to be ... sold by street vendors in in New York by the end of the year.

Nope. Everybody knows NYC street vendors run unix. (Well, except for the ones that actually do sell pirated software. Who knows what they've got?)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )