10:52 AM

Vista/Office Wonderland?

Since neither Vista nor Office 2007 will be generally available until early next year, the company will offer promotions to avoid holiday sales season blues.

Microsoft is set to offer coupons or take other promotional steps before its formal launch of Vista and Office 2007 to keep PC sales moving during the critical end-of-year selling season.

Neither Vista nor Office 2007 will be generally available via retail outlets or hardware OEMs until early next year. Volume licensees are slated to get their code by year's end, a fact that irked hardware manufacturers and retailers, which worry that the delivery delay to them will stall sales in the all-important holiday buying season.

Mike Sievert, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows client marketing, told CRN last week that the Redmond, Wash.-based company will take steps to prevent a market slowdown during those critical months.

"Most likely, we will have some sort of promotion at the consumer level," Sievert said. "It's important that people see value right up until the launch of Vista."

In addition, according to Sievert, the software giant is working with hardware partners to put such a program in place. Sievert, however, stopped short of spelling out the exact details of how the company and vendors would provide incentives to buy Windows XP-based systems now and upgrade later.

Chris Capossella, corporate vice president for the Information Worker Product Management Group at Microsoft, said that the company would likely do something analogous to its typical technology guarantee although all of the details have not been formalized.

At the Bear Stearns Technology Conference earlier this month in New York, Dell CEO Kevin Rollins downplayed to investors the impact of Microsoft's delayed Vista launch by saying that Microsoft and Dell had options to goose sales ahead of Vista's launch, including coupons for upgrades (see Dell story, p. 66).

And such an action would not be without precedent.

Lance Stevens, Hewlett-Packard's software product marketing manager for business PCs, declined to say if any specific plans were in the works between Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP and Microsoft. However, Stevens said past actions by the software giant provide reason to believe they will be repeated.

"What I can say is that with every previous operating system Microsoft has launched, they have provided essentially an upgrade program, and it has typically applied to PCs purchased in the final few days prior to the launch of the new operating system," Stevens said. Such programs, he added, have typically provided for upgrades at only the cost of shipping and handling of CDs. "We have no reason to believe that will not be available with Vista," he said.

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