I mentioned the other day that Windows Vista will have 6 different versions for consumers to choose from which could lead to a fair amount of confusion for folks unsure about what they need for their PCs. Microsoft apparently thought about that problem cropping up as well and they’ve come up with a way of dealing with it. They’re going to sell you one disc with every version of the OS on it and then allow you to upgrade to any of them at any time instantly:
Why might Joe be interested in changing up? Here’s a subtle part of Microsoft’s ploy: as the company focuses on the digital entertainment sphere over the next several years, it is going to be unveiling products and services that interact with the features of some of these OS versions but not others. Let’s take an example from a shipping product. Windows Vista Home Premium will allow you to stream movies and videos to the Xbox 360. Maybe you don’t have an Xbox 360, so you choose Home Basic for now. What Microsoft has put into place is an easy for you to move to the Premium or Ultimate version of the OS for any reason, whether it’s to get Media Center’s spotlight, new Xbox interactivity features, or some other as-of-yet unannounced product or service. You may not have an Xbox 360 right now. You may not have any desire for Media Center functionality. It’s no matter. If and when you do, the OS can be upgraded on the fly. And this saves more than just a trip to the store; Anytime Upgrade will upgrade computers in place, component by component. Gone will be the worries of installing one OS on top of another, or upgrading to a OS that isn’t as patched as the OS on the target computer. With Anytime Upgrade, Microsoft is keeping one core version of the OS up to date. All it needs to do is turn features off and on.
At the same time, the second interesting aspect of this approach slides in: anti-piracy. While tried and true pirates won’t be fazed by Windows Product Activation or the difficulties of obtaining illegal copies of the OS, that has always been the case. Microsoft has been up front about the fact that Windows Product Activation (and Genuine Advantage, for that matter) is primarily aimed at stopping casual piracy. Anytime Upgrade builds on that by giving users a method of obtaining valid licenses from within the OS, making it less attractive (in theory) for Joe User to try and hack his install to get features he didn’t pay for. If pricing is right, Microsoft could see a modest revenue stream here. In fact, I wonder if this same service won’t be used to sell valid product keys to users who have been sold pirated versions of Windows. That alone could generate some decent skrilla (noun, Money; Cash to be spent freely, not saved.).—ArsTechnica
Now it won’t matter which version you buy as you can upgrade whenever you get the urge to do so. I’ve got to admit, that’s pretty damned clever. As the article goes on to note having all versions on one disc is going to be a dream come true for the pirates as well, but the benefits outweigh the risks for MS in terms of keeping customers happy.