There ain't no such thing as a free Windows 7 upgrade. At least that's what it is starting to look like for the majority of people, despite the 'free upgrade' vouchers that are being handed out with new computers as part of the Windows 7 Upgrade Option scheme. A scheme which has been introduced to stop the huge dip in PC sales during the period before a new Windows OS ends up being a standard feature that would otherwise occur.
According to research carried out by PC Pro magazine in the UK, PC manufacturers are charging their customers in order to redeem free upgrade vouchers.
Just how much they are charging customers for the privilege of a free upgrade varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the voucher processing fee can be as high as £27.90 ($45) in some cases. That's how much PC Pro revealed was being charged by Toshiba in order to send out the upgrade OS discs. Dell was keeping quiet and refused to say how much it was going to be charging for shipping and handling, however HP, Lenovo and Sony customers can all expect to have to find around £20 ($32.50) for the discs. Just to make matters worse, Microsoft recently announced it would make the full version of Windows 7 Professional available to students in the UK for just £30 ($40).
Of course, nobody is denying that there is a cost to providing Windows 7 upgrade OS discs. Media reproduction and shipping fees must be factored into the equation. Toshiba are sending additional Windows 7 driver discs with the upgrade, but even so it seems to me that tempting customers with a 'free upgrade' headline offer and then asking them for a far from free handling and shipping fee is rather, well, unfair. Especially when some PC manufacturers are being less greedy: the PC Pro investigation revealed that both Chillblast and Mesh are not charging a penny to mail out the upgrade discs to customers.
So who is to blame here, PC vendors or Microsoft? Well Microsoft are saying that it's up to the vendor as to how much they charge for the Windows 7 upgrade discs, saying that the manufacturers have "complete control" over such things. However, PC Pro has one vendor on record saying that Microsoft has been selling two different SKUs for each version of Vista, and the one with the Windows 7 Free Upgrade voucher costs an additional £10 ($16).