New Microsoft site points to Friday launch of Windows 7 free upgrade deals

Confirms earlier reports that Vista-to-Windows 7 upgrades kicks off this week

Microsoft will launch its Windows 7 free upgrade program for buyers of Vista PCs on Friday, according to a message on a new company Web site.

"Thank you for your interest. Please return to this site on June 26, 2009," states the site, windows7upgradeoption.com.

According to a WHOIS lookup, the site was registered by Microsoft in early March.

Microsoft has been close-mouthed about the program, dubbed "Windows 7 Upgrade Option," which will offer free or heavily discounted upgrades to Windows 7 for buyers of new computers equipped with Windows Vista Home Premium, Business or Ultimate between June 26 and January 2010.

The company has not publicly confirmed the start and end dates of the program, however, or spelled out how much computer makers and retailers will charge for the upgrade. The most it has confirmed is that it will offer consumers "special deals" on an upgrade to Windows 7 if they buy a Vista-equipped PC before the launch of the new operating system.

Today, Microsoft declined to comment on the new URL, saying only that it had no new information to share.

As long ago as early January 2009, TechARP.com, a site that has a solid track record in pegging Microsoft plans, said that the company would unveil an upgrade program for Windows 7; later, it said the marketing campaign, which duplicates a program used in the months leading up to Vista's 2007 debut, would kick off this Friday.

According to TechARP, the upgrade program will allow computer makers to offer an upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate for people who buy PCs with Vista Home Premium, Business and Ultimate, respectively. Customers who purchase a PC that's been "downgraded" to Windows XP Professional will also be eligible. Earlier this month, Microsoft extended the deadline for downgrades to XP from Vista and XP until April 2011.

Microsoft has not revealed retail prices for Windows 7, although a leaked Best Buy memo said the electronics chain would pre-sell the new OS for as little as $US49.95 for a limited time starting Friday.

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Gregg Keizer

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