Office 2007 for 'free'?

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The ‘Technology Guarantee’ for Office 2007 and Vista have some traps for the unwary.

Microsoft has announced their ‘Technology Guarantee’ program for both Windows Vista and Office 2007. This is the offer to let people who buy software in a certain date range to upgrade to the newly released version for a reduced price.

There was a time when these offers were straight-forward, you bought Office after a certain date so you could apply to Microsoft for the new version with proof of purchase and the cost of shipping and handling.

These days it’s much more complicated. There’s plenty of fine print to catch you up and deprive you of the low-cost upgrade you might expect to get.

Our comments are mostly focused on Office 2007 – but much the same traps and policies also apply to Windows Vista. In fact, aside from the press announcement there’s little specific information about the Office 2007 Technology Guarantee program available from Microsoft.

However the careful wording of the release and the Windows Vista Express Upgrade site indicates there’s plenty of traps.

The Vista and Office 2007 Technology Guarantee program applies to purchases from tomorrow Oct. 26, 2006, through March 15, 2007.

Upgrade Trap 1

It’s only available from certain retailers.

Only Microsoft approved retailers selling Office 2007 will entitle you to the free upgrade. In Microsoft’s words “participating computer manufacturers and system builders”.

So make sure that if you purchase a computer with Windows XP or Office 2003 you are entitled to the Vista / Office 2007 upgrade from that seller.

Upgrade Trap 2

You need the voucher.

There is a special voucher that you get at the time of sale – that voucher is essential to getting the ‘Technology Guarantee’ update. Don’t leave the store without it or lose it later.

The standard proof of purchase (receipt etc) isn’t sufficient in many cases.

In Microsoft’s words for Office 2007: “Customers in North America will receive a coupon with the purchase that must also be submitted.”

Upgrade Trap 3

The new software might not be what you expect.

Each type of Office 2003 bundle translates to a particular bundle of Office 2007. Which Office 2003 bundles is linked to a new version is still unclear.

But the example for Windows Vista makes us wary. If you buy Windows XP Home under the Technology Guarantee program (and most people get XP Home) you have to pay more for Vista. According to Microsoft the cost is “50 percent discount from the boxed product upgrade price, plus the cost of shipping and handling” which means paying about US$50 plus s & h. Vista Home Basic, the lowest possible version of Vista which doesn’t have many of the heavily promoted Vista features. If you want some of the main Vista features like the Aero interface you’ll need to pay more for the Home Premium Edition (the Technology Guarantee pricing will be around $80 plus S&H).

Before you put down any money, see exactly which version of Office 2007 you’ll get later.

Purchases of Office 2003 Student and Teacher edition will not entitle you to any upgrade. As we’ve noted before, the Office 2003 Student & Teacher edition might be a better buy now see

Upgrade Trap 4

The Technology Guarantee differs per country.

Just because the Microsoft web site says you need a voucher, that may or may not apply where you live. Check with the local Microsoft web site – make sure you have it in writing. Don’t rely on anything Microsoft staff might tell you (MS staff can be as confused as customers about these rules).

Certainly don’t rely on the verbal assurances of a computer salesman.

Get it in writing and then carefully check the writing.

In short, there’s too many unknowns yet to be clarified by Microsoft. Certainly you can’t assume that buying a computer or Office 2003 now will entitle you to Vista and Office 2007 later.

The ‘Technology Guarantee’ is designed to stop people delaying purchase until the next version of Windows or Office – but with the limitations and requirements attached to the offer it would seem prudent to wait until 2007. It would be better to buy a computer loaded with Windows Vista than one you have to convert later. A computer might be ‘Vista capable’ but may well not be sufficient to make use of all the features of Vista that need more memory, video memory or graphics power.

If you do need to buy a computer before Vista is available pre-installed, make very, very sure you’re not only entitled to an upgrade but what Vista you’ll get and for what price.

If you need to buy Office 2003 before it’s on retail sale in early 2007 – the same cautions apply.

Will Office Watch keep you informed as Microsoft releases more details? You bet.

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