Perhaps responding to the claims that many users still have not felt the need to upgrade their systems since before the release of Vista, Microsoft has decided to offer upgrade options to users of every Windows distribution from Windows XP to the present. Different situations will have different upgrade capabilities, but clearly everybody is included.
From what we have been told, the upgrade options look like this:
- Windows 7 Users
- Windows 8 Basic Eligible: Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium
- Windows 8 Pro Eligible: Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate
- Retains: Windows Settings, Personal Files, Applications
- Vista Users (Probably Basic Upgrade Only)
- Retains: Personal Files, Windows Settings (If upgrading from Vista SP1)
- XP Users (Probably Basic Upgrade Only)
- Retains: Personal Files
The only major restriction that seems to be imposed on these upgrades is that users will not be able to move from a 32-bit operating system to a 64-bit version. Anybody who is interested in doing so will be forced to install the new version from scratch rather than retain any piece of their original setup. This may also be true of an installation that changes the default language of the operating system. A Windows installation in Spanish will not be able to be swapped to English without a complete wipe of all settings and user data.
Despite the restrictions, and the relatively minor advantages offered to Windows XP users, this may be an exceptionally profitable move for Microsoft. Windows XP has been declared effectively dead, with support for the popular operating system being cut off on April 8th of 2014. The aftermath will cause any number of problems for people, especially given the lack of ongoing security patches from that point forward.
If anything, it is surprising that the company has not moved up the discontinuation date to encourage a quick move by their user base. The decision seems instead to be centered around relative support costs as compared to ongoing Windows 7 support, as well as the fact that Windows 7 is now finally the predominant computer operating system after many years in the shadow of Windows XP.
In order to attract these potential buyers with Windows 8 rather than losing them to the already well-tested and well-received Windows 7, Microsoft is going to have to be persuasive. That means both upgrade discounts, which we could have expected anyway, and an impressive level of support. They will also have to do a lot to explain to IT departments why Windows 8 is a superior choice. This may well be the case, and a great deal of evidence points that way, but these are customers who have not used the newest operating system available in at least seven years at this point and the drastic change brought on with Metro will be harder to sell than ever.
For people on the market for a new PC and wondering about the eventual need to upgrade to Windows 8, remember that any Windows-based PC purchased between now and January 31st of 2013 will be eligible for a $15 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro. No need to wait if you need something now.