Why Microsoft Should Give Windows 7 AwayS

Windows 7 is shaping up to be an awesome OS. It's everything people wanted Vista to be and more. Which is exactly why Microsoft should give it away—or offer it dirt cheap—to Vista users.

Windows 7 is the solution to Microsoft's Vista problem, which is really a nasty hydra of a problem. Let's not pretend that this isn't the case. There are three major heads to the beast: Consumer perception of Vista as an abysmal failure and a crappy OS (hence, Mojave); the use of XP instead of Vista in increasingly popular netbooks; and the critical lack of Vista interest from the business community.

Windows 7 neatly resolves them: Word-of-mouth sentiment for Windows 7 has been overwhelmingly positive, even from Mossberg, a dude who spent half of his Sprint Instinct review pre-reviewing the iPhone 3G. Windows 7 is slimmed down when it needs to be, running fantastically on netbooks. And the IT buyers and consumers who skipped Vista have been waiting, cash in hand, for whatever came after, so Windows 7 will have a much more enthusiastic customer base.

The stars are aligned for Windows 7. It could wash the bad aftertaste from Vista out of everybody's mouth. But that's only if Microsoft sells it right.

For starters, Microsoft needs to get rid of all the separate license types (OEM vs. upgrade vs. full) and trim the number of boxed configurations. Give buyers three versions, Home, Business and Ultimate, all at a reasonable price. $129 would be ideal for the first two, with $149 for Ultimate.

Second, every Vista user should get it for $49, or even less.

Apple gave away OS X 10.1 for free, and Microsoft should take a lesson there. It doesn't matter that Vista isn't really broken—like OS 10.0 really really was. Or that it was mostly the hardware guys' fault for not delivering their drivers on time. Or that Mojave proves, at least to the nimwits who appear on camera, that Vista is a warm and fuzzy OS. Or that, conversely, most people who hate Vista have never really used it. All of that could be true, but regardless, people's perception is that Vista was, is and always will be broken. And perception is reality.

Microsoft screwed up the Vista launch, and well, first impressions are the ones that matter the most. True, it's already paying for that mistake. But taking that small hit per user wouldn't just be the final cost of the Vista screwup, it would be "earnest money," as they say in business. Microsoft would be buying something it hasn't had the opportunity to get in the last few years: People's faith.