Microsoft: No free Win7 yet, but the option is left open

In a statement to Betanews this afternoon, a Microsoft spokesperson refrained from explicitly denying that it would offer Windows 7 as a free upgrade to some Vista owners.

"Microsoft often explores options with our partners to determine product offerings," the Microsoft spokesperson told Betanews. "We are not announcing anything new at this time."

We couldn't help but notice that the denial was phrased in our message from Microsoft this afternoon not to our questions specifically, but to a completely different, pre-written set of questions using a format that might appear in an FAQ: "How about the rumors that customers who buy Windows Vista after a certain date get a free copy of Windows 7. Is that true? Will there be certain SKUs that qualify?" reads Microsoft's carefully phrased set of questions to itself.

This suggests that Microsoft has been ready to respond to such questions, perhaps for reasons other than what would appear to be a leak of program eligibility guidelines for PC builders and retailers, in the Malaysian blog TechARP. Last December, it was TechARP that first blurted February as the target month in which Service Pack 2 of Windows Vista would be released.

If the TechARP leak is indeed genuine -- and Microsoft did not deny to Betanews this afternoon that it was, despite us having asked explicitly -- then it also contains two other important pieces of information: One is that the Windows XP upgrade path to Win7 doesn't count -- the system being upgraded must have Vista installed to be eligible for the program, and furthermore, must have 64-bit Vista installed in order to upgrade to 64-bit Win7. The second important item is the date of initial eligibility for the program, which is stated as July 1, 2009.

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