Death by upgrade

Walt Mossberg on upgrading from XP to Windows 7 (via this piece John Gruber linked to).

In fact, the process will be so painful that, for many XP users, the easiest solution may be to buy a new PC preloaded with Windows 7, if they can afford such a purchase in these dire economic times. In fact, that’s the option Microsoft recommends for XP users. (Conveniently, this option also helps Microsoft’s partners that make PCs.)

But Windows XP users, including the millions who have recently snapped up cheap, XP-powered netbooks, will first have to wipe out everything on their hard disks in order to install Windows 7. on their current machines. In fact, Microsoft doesn’t even call migrating to Windows 7 from XP an “upgrade.” It refers to it as a “clean install,” or a “custom installation.”

This is nuts. The Macalope is simply flabbergasted that Microsoft could have screwed this up so badly. No amount of begging and clinging to the legs of those unfortunate enough to wander into a Microsoft store at the mall is going to make people not realize they are basically starting all over again. And when you’re starting all over again, why not consider a Mac? Which you can buy two doors down?

And that’s not ever getting to the complex decision tree you have to navigate to figure out which version of the OS you need. Good lord.

Apple doesn’t do everything right (see: App Store), but they’ve sure got this process down in a way Microsoft simply seems either unable to do because of the complex installed base or unwilling to do because the company is a lumbering ape. With Apple, there’s one version of the OS which upgrades versions going back several years.

And Apple certainly nailed the timing on releasing a cheap OS upgrade during an economic slump. Microsoft, meanwhile, is telling most of its users they should probably go ahead and buy a new machine.

Maybe Windows 7 is just so super-cool and Microsoft will spend so much money on marketing that everyone will rush out and spend up to $220 on a freakin’ upgrade, but right now this looks like insanity.

Trackbacks Comments
  • Snow Leopard is going to require all of their users with PowerPC Macs to ‘start over’ and buy new computers also, right?

    Also, the Mac OS upgrade is only cheap if you already have Leopard. Those of us still using Tiger have to pay the full $120 or so for the upgrade.

    I agree that Microsoft screwed the pooch with Win 7 upgrade pricing. Upgrading from Vista should cost around the same amount as Snow Leopard from Leopard.

  • The Macalope:

    Those are fair comments. But it’s still really not quite the same (not that you’re suggesting it is). Vista presented a difficult and not compelling upgrade from XP. So many people have had no real reason other than hardware-based to upgrade their machines since XP debuted *8 years ago*. Now there’s no upgrade path from XP to Windows 7 unless you buy Vista and then Windows 7 (what is that, $240?). Otherwise you have to reinstall.

    Apple hasn’t shipped a PowerPC machine for three years. It’s unlikely Windows 7 will run on a machine that’s 3 years old either.

    The primary difference between the two is Apple has presented smooth and compelling upgrades for the last 8 years while Microsoft has, well, not. Yes, technology ever marches forward and at some point no matter what the platform (well, OK, maybe less so with Linux), you have to upgrade your hardware.

    [Addendum: by email someone noted that the Macalope failed to mention that the Snow Leopard upgrade works on Tiger, so the comment about needing to shell out $120 is incorrect. Advantage: Snow Leopard.]

  • KiltBear:

    The grammar and punctuation of this article sucks. And it’s not very funny………….


    I was practicing my imitation of a Macworld troll.

    I do so wish apple really did have a more affordable portable. I have people all the time asking me what laptap to buy. Often the only have <1000 to really spend. I try to convince to stretch and buy a MacbookPro, "you'll be happier in the long run I tell them." they often understand, but a shiny new system for $600 from Costco is a hard hurdle to overcome when someone is on a tight budget.

  • KiltBear:

    Thinking about it some more… With their pricing, MS doesn’t want you to upgrade your OS for $220. They want you to buy a new machine for $500. They are subsidizing the purchase of new machines with steeply discounted OS costs because ultimately there will be fewer support issues and a better customer experience. It is the closest that MS can get to having the kind of control over the hardware the way Apple does.

  • @ Matt V –

    Yes, Snow Leopard would require someone with a non-compatible processor to buy a new machine, and as the Macalope responds, that applies to people with machines at least 3-4 years old. The CPU manufacturer changed (would you prefer to have PowerPC processors still?)

    Now… Apple has been moving towards 64 bit operating systems. The upgrade path is to install Snow Leopard. Windows has 32 bit and 64 bit editions. You need to pick one. And you can’t upgrade from Vista 32 bit to Windows Seven 64 bit without doing a reinstall.

    Apple has just been adding 64 bit code into their one edition.

    Also of course the upgrade is only cheap if you have Leopard. What, Panther users should get $30 upgrades? If you have the last version, it’s $29. As compared to Microsoft which says if you have XP or Vista you have to pay well over a hundred bucks regardless of which of the six editions. And you can’t crossgrade from one verison to another unless you buy Ultimate (the most expensive upgrade).

  • > when you’re starting all over again, why not consider a Mac?

    That is a most excellent point!

    For most XP users the switch to Mac might actually be easier than the switch to Windows 7 because the Apple Geniuses will transfer their files for and guide them through using the pre-installed Mac apps.

  • Fred:

    > when you’re starting all over again, why not consider a Mac?

    Because you can buy that new PC (with monitor) for $500 and that new iMac (mini doesn’t include a monitor) STARTS @ $1199. Coming from a guy who has installed OS X on Sonys, Compaqs, Lenovo, etc. all of the hardware is the same, Mac is nothing but different OS. So when you put it that way, your new iMac has $500 of hardware and a $700 OS. Which is cheaper again?

  • @ Fred:

    Having done both sides of the computer equation as a consumer, I can attest that paying $1200 for a computer with a better experience AND fewer support issues, and one that will probably last a good # of years just the way it is, is a much better alternative than paying $500 (@$220 for the OS upgrade for Windows, or $129 for an Apple Disc as you’re proposing), and it runs like sh*t, AND if you DO install an unsupported OS on unsupported Hardware, chances are your support when needed will be… Nil. Plus that $500 machine will make it – what – a year or two, maybe? before you invest another $500 for another crappy $500 computer?

    I learned long ago that buying QUALITY once is cheaper than buying CRAP two or three times. Windows (OS & hardware) is the latter. Of course, as with everything on teh interwebs, IMHO.

  • nicbot:

    Snowleopard is more of an update/service pack than a new OS, hence the $30 price tag.

    Win 7 will run great on a 3 year old machine…and way better than Vista obviously.

    I agree that no upgrade path from XP to 7 is a big problem, but honestly…it’s worth it.

    “And when you’re starting all over again, why not consider a Mac? Which you can buy two doors down?”

    Well, you can consider it, but all of the programs you already paid for will not work with it, but will work with Win7. Also, you can go buy one 2 doors down, but it will cost you 2-3 times as much.

  • Gary:

    @ Fred. Still the Mac mini (if using that overall) Yes you can get a rock bottom priced PC (Windows box) that hopefully will meet the requirements for Win & basic. To use the fancy eye candy graphics you will need a better quality graphics card which is generally not in a “rock bottom” priced PC. Being that you probably already have the monitor and keyboard you don’t really need to get those. Just connect them to the new computer. I leave it to you to do the additonal research on costs of PC VS Mac on comparable systems including any added memory, bigger HD etc if required. Don’t forget comparable software included with Mac not with generic PC Widows box

  • Gamble:

    ok, wow. So wrong it hurts.

    M$ making win7 a clean install even if you’re upgrading is the best option. Aside from pointing out that it’s not the next system but two systems later (as bad as it was don’t forget vista) you have to allow that XP has been around forever. Seriously XP was released in 2002. TWO THOUSAND TWO! In that time Mac OS has had half a dozen major upgrades and many more minor upgrades, most of which they charged for. All the while M$ was handing out service pack upgrades for free. So cost wise it makes a lot of sense that this “upgrade” costs more than the next Mac OS upgrade. Because it’s the equivalent of 6 Mac OS upgrades rolled into one.

    Not to mention if you have a machine that came installed with XP instead of vista it’s probably either too old (or a netbook) and the hardware wont’ be able to support win7. Which is why they’re suggesting the machine upgrade too.

    This posted from a guy running Linux. All the OSes have their positives and negatives, but the author’s argument is totally invalid in every possible way.

  • The Macalope:

    So cost wise it makes a lot of sense that this “upgrade” costs more than the next Mac OS upgrade. Because it’s the equivalent of 6 Mac OS upgrades rolled into one.

    This argument gets funnier every time the Macalope hears it. Yes, not releasing anything but bug fixes for years and years was a feature.

    No one put a gun to anyone’s head and forced them to buy Jaguar or Leopard or any of the other OS X releases in the years since XP came out. If you wanted to skip a release, you still got bug fixes (the Macalope’s not sure how far back Apple still does bug fixes, certainly not to Puma, the contemporary of XP which was release in late 2001, by the way, but far enough). And the fact that you could actually buy new features and use them in the interim is of value.

    Not to mention if you have a machine that came installed with XP instead of vista it’s probably either too old (or a netbook) and the hardware wont’ be able to support win7.

    Actually, this is less true than you’d think because so many Windows users (particularly businesses) have been choosing to downgrade to XP instead of running Vista on newer hardware. Now, businesses wouldn’t want to run an upgrade anyway because they’d rather use a clean image, so there is that.

    Nicbot actually has a pretty good point and the Macalope’s assessment of what hardware would run Windows 7 was off. He thought the Mossberg piece said something about machines that were just a few years old having trouble, but the minimum requirements (which are probably at least slightly specious) are 1 Ghz with 1 gig of RAM. And the point about PowerPC machines getting left out in the cold has some merit. The Macalope’s working up a more detailed response to those.

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