HP, Lenovo lead off with the first free Windows 7 upgrades

Yesterday, Microsoft announced it was giving PC manufacturers the option to offer buyers of new PCs with Windows Vista pre-installed, starting today, free upgrades to Windows 7 on October 22. Betanews asked the big five PC manufacturers directly, will you be offering free upgrades? This morning, global #1 manufacturer Hewlett-Packard is the first to respond with an emphatic "yes."

"The program will enable customers who purchase qualifying HP PCs to enjoy the benefits of a new Windows-based PC immediately, and receive a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it becomes available in October," reads HP's statement to Betanews. "Following general availability of Windows 7 on October 22, qualifying customers will receive the Windows 7 upgrade and an upgrade utility disk with a step-by-step guide for installation at their convenience."

Lenovo's news came later in the morning, with the publication of a consumer-facing Web page explaining their customers' free upgrade options. From now until next January 31, consumers who purchase Lenovo notebook PCs with Vista Home Premium, Vista Business, or Vista Ultimate pre-installed will be eligible for free upgrade kits to Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate, respectively.

Customers must register their PCs via serial number through Lenovo's Web site to request their free upgrades, which will apparently be mailed. There's no word as to whether they'll be shipped in time for customers to receive them on October 22, Win7's "GA-day."

As of 10:30 am EDT Friday morning, there was no formal word from Dell, Acer, Toshiba, Fujitsu, or Sony as to whether they would be joining the list of free upgraders. The news from Sony was actually not very hopeful this morning, as the company did post an upgrade program page this morning. However, it did not provide details about cost up front; and when we dialed up recent Vaio models to inquire as to whether they were eligible for upgrades at all, at first, the site responded by saying that Microsoft, not Sony, would be the one deciding whether that model could be upgraded, and to check back on October 22.

Then in subsequent trials -- perhaps not surprisingly -- Sony's Web page froze up and was unresponsive.

An India-based publication appears to cite Microsoft as saying that Dell, Sony, Acer, Toshiba, HCL, and Wipro will participate in the upgrade program. Techtree also cites yesterday's Microsoft blog announcement from Brandon LeBlanc as saying the upgrade program will end on July 11.

But that last bit of information, when Betanews received it yesterday, seemed questionable; and indeed, Lenovo is stating its program will extend until January 31. HP did not state when its program will expire, and its upgrade program page had yet to be posted this morning, though we're given reason to expect that we'll see that information later today.

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