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While both Gateway and Hewlett-Packard are going to let customers who buy certain PCs this holiday season upgrade to Windows Vista at no cost, Dell has decided to charge a fee to upgrade from Windows XP Home to Vista Basic.

These OEM announcements closely follow that of Microsoft, which finally revealed Oct. 24 its upgrade plans for customers who buy a Windows Vista capable PC this holiday season.

Dell spokesman Bob Kaufman told eWEEK that while the company plans to charge $45 plus shipping and handling to move from Windows XP Home to Vista Basic, the upgrade from Windows XP Media Center Edition to Vista Premium and from Windows XP Pro to Vista premium will only incur a shipping and handling fee.

“There are also no proof-of-purchase requirements or other cumbersome verifications efforts. We know who our customers are and we can help counsel them on what they need to buy a Vista capable system,” Kaufman said.

When Vista becomes available, customers will receive two DVD’s: one which contains Vista and the other which gives a step-by-step process on how to load the new operating system, he said.

Click here to read more about how Hewlett-Packard overtook Dell as the world’s top PC vendor in the third quarter.

Dell was also recommending that those customers buying systems, both now and when Vista is available in January 2007, consider including dual-core processors, upgraded graphics cards with 128MB of graphics memory, large hard drives of 2GB or more, and a wide aspect screen “for an optimized experience on Vista,” he said.

A Gateway spokesperson told eWEEK that all eMachines and Gateway PCs were eligible for a free upgrade to Windows Vista, starting Oct. 26.

“The specific Vista version will depend on the version of XP they purchase today: XP Home upgrades to Vista Home Basic, Microsoft Media Center to Vista Home Premium and XP Pro and the Tablet to Vista Business,” the spokesperson said.

“The upgrade is totally free of charge for customers who buy PCs direct from Gateway, via both phone and Web, while retailers are handling the Vista Express upgrade program at their discretion, based on Microsoft guidelines,” she said.

That means that customers who buy eMachines/Gateway PCs via retail may have to pay a shipping fee, the spokesperson said, noting that although systems bought before Oct. 26 were not eligible for the free upgrade to Vista, “most eMachines and all Gateway systems have been capable of running Vista since the second quarter.”

To read more about what’s inside the six Windows Vista releases, click here.

Tiffany Smith, the public relations manager for Hewlett-Packard’s personal systems group, told eWEEK that North American consumers who buy a new HP Pavilion or Compaq Presario desktop or notebook PC, or HP Digital Entertainment Center, with a qualifying Windows XP operating system that is designated “Windows Vista Capable” between Oct. 26, 2006 and March 15, 2007 will be eligible for a free upgrade to Vista.

Shipping and handling costs may also apply, depending on individual retailer requirements, she said, adding that the free, qualifying, equivalent upgrade paths in North America include Windows XP Home to Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 to Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows XP Professional to Windows Vista Business.

What is the business case for upgrading to Vista? Click here to read more.

“In North America, approximately 98 percent of HP consumer PCs are Microsoft Windows Vista Capable—direct customers can still custom configure a PC with 256MB of memory, so that’s why we say 98 percent—and more than 85 percent are Windows Vista Premium Ready,” Smith said.

Customers will also have to visit HP’s Web site to request their upgrade and for instructions on how to take advantage of the upgrade by no later than March 31, 2007, and proof of purchase will be required.

What is the real compatibility picture for Windows Vista? Click here to read more.

There will also be ordering instructions in the box of new Windows Vista Capable consumer PCs shipped from HP to its partners and customers beginning October 26, 2006, she said.

“HP also plans to have Windows Vista-compatible and/or pre-loaded PCs, printers, scanners and digital cameras, as well as services, for both consumers and business users, all available when Vista launches. HP will also offer Windows Vista-compatible drivers for specific models of HP PCs, printers, scanners and digital cameras in time for the Windows Vista general availability launch,” Smith said.

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