Microsoft on Monday began taking orders for the $14.99 Windows 8 upgrade promised to customers who purchased a new Windows 7-powered PC in the last 11 weeks.
People who bought an eligible Windows 7 machine starting June 2 can now file an online form to queue up for the Oct. 26 delivery of the upgrade.
The upgrade to Windows 8 Pro costs $14.99, more than in past cycles when they were often free, but less than the $39.99 for users who upgrade older systems to the new operating system.
Although registration opened today, orders will not be fulfilled until Windows 8's on-sale date of Oct. 26, Microsoft reminded customers.
"Starting on October 26, we will start sending out promo codes via email with purchase instructions," said company spokesman Brandon LeBlanc on a Microsoft blog.
The code will change the upgrade's price to the discounted $14.99; Microsoft will serve upgrades as a download that installs the new OS.
Customers who qualify for the $14.99 deal must provide Microsoft with name, email address, phone number, the date of purchase, the retailer, the PC brand and model, and in some cases, the 25-character Windows 7 product key associated with the PC. "You may be required to enter this as part of the registration," said LeBlanc.
The key requirement may be part of Microsoft's anti-piracy strategy. When Computerworld tested the upgrade registration process, first posing as a U.S. customer, Microsoft did not ask for a key and approved the registration. A second test, however, posing as an Indian consumer, asked for a key.
"We can only validate your registration when you submit a qualifying Windows 7 product key," the registration site stated during the second test.
According to the Business Software Alliance, India's 2011 piracy rate of 63% was more than triple the 19% in the U.S.
It's unclear how Microsoft will prevent scams of the system -- attempts to qualify for the cheaper upgrade by providing bogus information -- if the process does not require a product key in every instance. Making enforcement even more difficult are Microsoft's terms, which let a customer who is legitimately eligible for the $14.99 price to apply the upgrade not only on the recently purchased PC, but on "any compatible Windows-based PC with a qualifying operating system."
Computerworld's tests, including the one that was quickly approved, were conducted on a Mac, even though the upgrade offer FAQ clearly states, "This upgrade offer requires you to use your Windows PC to register."
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