Microsoft to make Vista easily upgradeable

With the next version of Windows, consumers and businesses will have an easy way to buy an update to a pricier version of the OS.

Microsoft is planning to make it very easy for Windows Vista owners to upgrade to a pricier version of the operating system.

In the past, such upgrades would have required users to go to a store to get a physical disc to update their machine. With Vista, which is due to go on sale later this year, Microsoft is adding a second option. Dubbed Windows Anytime Upgrade, the new mechanism will let customers buy the update online. New PCs that come with Vista will come with a Windows Automatic Upgrade DVD, which can be used with a later update that is purchased online.

"If you want more features in Windows Vista, you can upgrade to another version," Microsoft said in help notes that accompany the most recent test version of Windows. "You can either buy a separate upgrade disc at a retail store or use Windows Anytime Upgrade to buy the upgrade online, and then use your Windows Anytime Upgrade disc or the Windows installation disc to complete the process."

Microsoft confirmed Monday that such a process is being planned for Vista, but offered scant additional details.

"We are working closely with our partners to put the right infrastructure in place to support Windows Anytime Upgrade, and we will have more information to share at a later date," a Microsoft representative wrote in an e-mail.

The move is one of several efforts Microsoft is making with Vista to encourage users to opt for higher-end versions of the software. Among the other efforts is the introduction of an "Ultimate" edition that combines the best of Microsoft's consumer and business features.

According to information in the Vista test version, the upgrade feature will allow Windows Vista Home Basic users to go to Windows Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate edition, while Vista Business users will be able to move only to the Ultimate edition. Microsoft's other business version--Windows Vista Enterprise--is available only for volume licensing customers.

Microsoft announced last week that there would be six major editions of Vista, comprising those listed above, along with a "starter" edition of Vista that will be sold only on new PCs in certain emerging markets.

The mention of the update plans within the test release of Vista was noted by a number of enthusiast sites, including Vista Buzz.

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