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'06 PC buyers mad over Vista Express upgrade delays

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For some users, Microsoft's Windows Vista Express Upgrade program, a deal launched last year that gives PC buyers free or discounted copies of the new operating system, has been anything but "express."

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The discounted upgrades were offered starting last October to buyers of Windows XP-equipped systems, and were a response to Vista's delay amid complaints from computer makers that they would miss out on holiday hardware sales.

Users expecting a fast turn-around of Vista DVDs, however, have been disappointed.

"I drop over $3,000 on an XPS 710 and have to wait longer for my upgrade? Waiting until the end of February to receive an OS that I could walk down the block and get a week ago is crazy enough...now I call and I'm told the earliest is late March for this to ship," wrote a user identified as "Jason" on an official Dell blog.

Another, who gave the name "Scott," said: "Why is it that an 'express' upgrade won't even be shipped until almost a month after the release of vista[?] I feel like a chump, thanks for all the delay and poor excuses. I wish I would of [sic] bought an apple."

"I could have waited until now and bought a brand new machine with Vista pre-installed, but instead I have to wait until the end of February or beginning of March for an upgrade," complained "Phil."

For its part, Dell, like other OEMs, has posted information on its Web site to mollify users, including details on the delivery fine print. "Dell's goal is to make the upgrade package available four to eight weeks after the Windows Vista general availability launch date," reads a Dell FAQ on Express Upgrade.

"Dell expects to begin shipping the upgrade in the latter part of February," reiterated Lionel Menchaca, Dell's digital media Manager, in a blog entry written two weeks ago.

Dell isn't the only vendor fending off angry customers. "During the past few weeks, HP has received e-mails and phone calls from customers concerning the ordering process for the Express Upgrade kit for Windows Vista. We apologize for any inconvenience that our customers have experienced," Hewlett-Packard writes on its Web site. For its part, HP said it would start shipping Vista upgrades within four to six weeks of Vista's Jan. 30 debut.

Vendors blame drivers for much of the delay. Along with Microsoft's operating system, the upgrades are also to include Vista-compatible drivers for the customer's PC and/or on-disc instructions on how to upgrade from Windows XP. "We're still validating some drivers for high-end graphics cards," said Menchaca of Dell.

Neither Dell nor HP officials were able to immediately say whether the Vista upgrades are shipping, and if not, when the first kits would go out the door.

By Gregg Keizer
Computerworld (US online)

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