Pardon me for pointing out the obvious here but when it comes to upgrading to Vista there seems to be a disconnect between the Microsoft definition of the term free and the common every day usage of the term which means at no cost.

If I read Microsoft's media statements correctly, everybody who decides to take advantage of the coupons upgrade program from Windows XP to an equivalent version of Windows Vista will have to pay shipping and handling charges. Although some might disagree, it's reasonable not to expect Microsoft to pay the costs associated with shipping what could be tens of millions of discs to users around the world. However, there's a charge (in Australia $27) - it's not free.

And of course, for a significant proportion of users who buy a computer between now and March, an upgrade from Windows XP to an equivalent version of Vista will certainly not be free. Windows XP Home buyers will have to pay 50% of the boxed upgrade price for the equivalent Vista Home Basic version. The justification for this is not clear - we're still waiting for an answer from Microsoft on that question.

It's true that Microsoft will enable computer manufacturers to hand out free upgrade coupons to purchasers of the equivalent high-end Windows XP products - and so they should. It would be unreasonable for Microsoft to expect a new buyer to pay extra funds for an upgrade of such expensive software within months of the purchase.

We were also waiting for an answer from Microsoft as to why it hasn't mentioned anything about discounts for purchasers who want to upgrade to it's new top of the range product, Vista Ultimate. Just in from Microsoft in response to our question is the following:

"There is currently no upgrade path under the Tech Guarantee programs from Windows XP to Ultimate, since Vista Ultimate is an entirely new high end product with significant functionality and value-added compared to existing high end Windows XP product." That's certainly not free.