Acer to offer free Windows 8 upgrades on some ultrabooks

Acer will refund the small fee Microsoft is charging consumers to upgrade Windows 7 PCs to Windows 8 Pro

Acer is offering a free upgrade to Windows 8 on some ultrabook models, saying it will refund the upgrade fee being charged by Microsoft on certain Windows 7 PC models purchased by buyers.

Acer will refund consumers who purchase the Aspire S3, Aspire S5, Aspire M3 and Aspire M5 ultrabook models between June 2 this year and Jan. 31 next year. Users will have to pay Microsoft for the upgrade, but will then be refunded by Acer via a claim website.

The offer is valid in 36 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but not in the U.S., Canada or other Asian countries. Acer representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether the offer would be available in other countries.

Microsoft is charging customers US$14.99 for users to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro on qualified PC models. The fee varies based on region -- for example, Microsoft is charging £14.99 (US$23) to U.K. customers for the Windows 8 upgrades. PC makers are certifying computers as being upgradeable to Windows 8.

Microsoft has also announced a separate upgrade program in which existing PCs running Windows XP, Vista or 7 OSes can be upgraded to Windows 8 for $39.99. Those PCs do not qualify for the Acer offer.

No other PC maker has announced such a program yet, and Acer's offer could be a small incentive for users to buy its PCs over rival brands.

The PC industry is reeling as buyers redirect money to purchase tablets and smartphones. Worldwide PC shipments totaled 87.5 million units in the second quarter, a decline of 0.1 percent compared to the same quarter last year, according to numbers released by Gartner this week. Research firm IDC expects a rough third quarter and possible recovery in the fourth quarter.

Acer was the world's largest PC maker behind Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, with PC shipments growing by 3.6 percent year-over-year to 9.6 million units.

Countries eligible for Acer's offer include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and U.K.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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