On 25 June 2009, Microsoft announced its Windows Upgrade Option (WUO) program. WUO provides free upgrades to Windows 7 for anyone purchasing a new PC preloaded with Windows Vista. It is limited to requests of 25 PCs or fewer. Windows 7 is expected to ship on new PCs starting 22 October 2009.
The WUO program replaces what used to be known as the Technology Guarantee, which was available in the months leading up to prior operating system (OS) shipments. The program is important because it ensures that sales of new PCs don't stall in the months preceding general availability of a new version of Windows, which may prompt people to delay PC purchases until the PCs ship with the new OS. However, Microsoft aims these programs at consumers and very small businesses. Before Windows Vista shipped, the Technology Guarantee limited the number of free upgrades requests to five. With Windows 7 WUO, Microsoft has increased that limit, but only to 25. Therefore, organizations without client Windows Software Assurance that are purchasing more than 25 new PCs between now and 22 October would have to enroll these PCs in Software Assurance at an additional cost to get the right to upgrade them to Windows 7.
Microsoft has not publicized this limitation to our knowledge. However, the WUO announcement comes on the heels of last week's disclosure that after Windows 7 ships, organizations needing to buy a PC deployed with Windows XP will be allowed a free upgrade to Windows 7 only until SP1 becomes available (or 18 months, whichever is earlier). Gartner believes that Microsoft designs these program limitations to persuade organizations to enter Enterprise Agreements, enroll licenses in Software Assurance or purchase upgrades to obtain rights to run Windows 7.
Organizations need to understand what their requirements for Windows 7 will be and learn how to get the rights to Windows 7 for the least cost or best value. From now until Windows 7 ships on new PCs, organizations should exercise one of several options (see recommendations below) to obtain those rights.
Organizations without SA on Windows client that need Windows 7 Licenses:
(You may need to sign in or be a Gartner client to access the documents referenced in this First Take.)
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