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Microsoft primes PC buyers for Premium Vista

Forget Vista Basic. Microsoft's marketing campaign will pitch hard for people to choose the higher-end Windows update.

SEATTLE--Don't expect Microsoft to talk much about the Basic edition of Windows Vista when the operating system ships. The software maker wants you to go Premium.

Microsoft is readying its marketing efforts for Vista, the successor to Windows XP slated to be broadly available in January. In its consumer campaigns, the company plans to highlight specific uses--which it calls "scenarios"--of the operating system. In each case, Windows Vista Home Premium will be the product Microsoft tries to sell.

"Scenarios should increase Windows Vista PC sales and drive the desire for Windows Vista Home Premium," Tim Richardson, a product manager in Microsoft's Windows group, said Wednesday in a presentation at the company's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference here.

Vista versions

Pushing to adoption of higher-priced editions of Windows is one of Microsoft's clear strategies. The software maker got some experience with Windows XP, where businesses paid more for Windows than consumers with Windows XP Pro, and consumers paid more for Home with Media Center Edition. With Vista, Microsoft is building out that effort.

"It is a continuation of what they started with Windows XP Media Center Edition," said Greg DeMichillie, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. "It is a way to make revenue grow faster than volume sales."

Richardson said Vista marketing will focus on six areas where Microsoft believes the new software offers a lot to consumers: music, TV and video, gaming, productivity, communications, and digital memories.

The campaign should "increase the purchase intent" of customers and also sell more third-party products for use with Windows, he added.

Microsoft announced the different editions of Vista in February. There will be six versions of the operating system, two of them aimed at the home user: Windows Vista Home Basic and Windows Vista Home Premium. A third, Windows Vista Ultimate, offers all the features of the business and consumer versions.

Windows Vista Home Basic is comparable to Windows XP Home. It has the security and search abilities particular to Vista, but does not offer the update's fancy graphics or high-end media features. Windows Vista Home Premium adds support for Vista's new graphics as well as Media Center and Tablet PC features.

Microsoft is not expected to put any marketing muscle behind Home Basic. "They are going to leave that for the $300 PC," DeMichillie said. "Other than the few PC makers that really live at that price point, you won't see much of Windows Vista Home Basic."

Windows Vista pricing hasn't been disclosed yet. But consumers might not even notice that they are paying a premium, DeMichillie said, "simply because the price of the OS is not visible when you buy a PC from Dell, for example."

Microsoft doesn't have any forecast of sales of Basic and Premium versions that it can share publicly, a company representative said.