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Which PC Is A Windows Vista PC?

Microsoft's Windows Vista has finally gotten into the marketplace, but it may take a while for the marketplace to really get into Vista. A week after Vista's commercial introduction, there is a flood of advertising, in-store displays, and Web-site promotions from PC vendors, all touting the new operating system. Much of it, however, still seems a little confused over what consumers need to know about the various versions of Vista and the hardware required to run all the features.

For example, I wandered into a local branch of office-supply giant Staples the weekend of
February 3, 2007, to check out the prices on Vista upgrades and the availability of computers with Vista installed. The results were more confusing than enlightening.

Which PC Is A Vista PC?

•  Shopping For Vista PCs

•  Vista Capable Vs. Premium Ready

•  What Do The Stickers Mean?

The laptop displays were labeled with an "Express Upgrade" placard that told shoppers they could "buy with confidence today." Some of the laptops on display wore the "Microsoft Vista Installed" sticker; for the rest, the placard offered a chart of manufacturers' upgrade offers for each of the four consumer versions of Vista -- without explaining that some might be more appropriate than others. The best information came from a knowledgeable salesman who understood the graphics issues and handed out a copy of Microsoft brochure titled The "Wow" Starts Now that included a chart that compared the features of Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate.

This is not an unusual situation. Currently, if consumers want solid information about what hardware they need to buy to run which version of Vista, they're going to have to do some research on their own. (If they're in a hurry, they may also have to shop around -- a few days after Vista was released, at least one consumer who needed to purchase a notebook in a hurry reported that the shelves of his local retailers were stripped of Windows XP systems and that the Vista computers hadn't arrived yet.)

It's not only stores, of course. Newspaper advertising for new PCs has already begun to tout various versions of Vista, but again without spelling out why one laptop comes with Vista Home Basic and another with Vista Home Premium. (Interestingly, in the Sunday, February 4, 2007, edition of the Boston Globe, several companies advertised the complete range of Vista upgrades, but no PC seller offered a machine with Vista Ultimate installed -- Home Basic and Home Premium were the two versions available.)

And Online? No Better
The situation online isn't much better. Web sites let shoppers customize their purchase online and even pick which version of Vista they want, but may or may not provide recommendations and explanations that would guide buyers in purchasing the hardware add-ons that the "premium" versions of Vista really need to run well. Tangent, for example, put out a press release last week announcing that its "PC, workstation, server and mobile computing solutions are now shipping with Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system, " but when I checked the Burlingame, CA, company's Web site, it didn't yet mention Vista.

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