A number of commenters on my column on Windows 7 expressed dismay that Microsoft does not plan to provide an upgrade path from XP. I want to clarify just what that means, since I seem to have caused a bit of confusion.
It does not mean that Microsoft won’t offer upgrade pricing. The company has not yet said anything about Windows 7 pricing, but I expect that anyone moving from either XP or Vista will be eligible for upgrade pricing, that is, a substantial discount from the full retail charge.
What it does mean is that XP users will not be able to to install Win 7 as an upgrade that will leave all of your programs in place. Instead, you will have to back up your data and settings, do a clean installation of win 7, then reload your apps and restore your data.I expect there will be some sort of migration tool to make this somewhat easier.
For the record, here's Microsoft's full statement on the subject: "Microsoft remains committed to making the transition to Windows 7 easier for all customers. With tools, guidance, and the work we're doing with industry partners it is our belief that this will be an improved process . Furthermore, we expect most customers who upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 will be doing so through the purchase of a new computer, thereby making the upgrade virtually effortless. That said, Windows XP customers planning to upgrade to Windows 7 will need to perform a clean installation."
This is unfortunate, but I think Microsoft had good reasons for the decision. First, the upgrade from XP to Vista was very difficult and often unsuccessful and people trying to upgrade of XP to 7 would likely face the same or greater difficulties. And the overwhelming majority of consumer and small business PCs running XP mpst likely lack enough memory or processing power to run 7 effectively, even though it appears to be somewhat less demanding of hardware than Vista. (Corporations typically use a different procedure for installing a new operating system that avoids the upgrade question. They back up the data, load the machine with a disk "image" that includes the operating system and standard applications, then restore the data.)