Vista Users May be Forced to Pay for Software Upgrades

Dennis Faas's picture

Users thinking about upgrading to Windows Vista may end up spending more than they thought. Besides having to pay for faster hardware, users should expect to pay for Vista upgrades to a lot of their favorite software. (Source:

Instead of releasing free patches to update existing versions, some major vendors such as Adobe Systems Inc., Symantec Corp. and Intuit Inc. are adding Vista compatibility only to new releases or future products that are still being developed. Most of these new versions will add more features along with Vista compatibility.

Vendors argue that if Vista compatibility is a new feature, there is nothing unfair about packaging a new feature only in new versions of their software, instead of going back to patch aging versions that may be nearing the end of their product life cycle.

Many customers who are happy with their existing software may become upset when they're being coerced into upgrading current software. According to analysts, that could rebound on Microsoft as well as Windows software vendors, making users hold off on Vista upgrades, or consider switching to other operating systems altogether.

Transitioning for operating systems has been a delicate issue for many software vendors. If you move to the newer platform too slowly or abandon older platforms too quickly, you could end up losing long-term customers.

For example, almost a third of Adobe's software doesn't run on Vista today. Another half runs, but with some known issues. Adobe has released free Vista updates for some of its lower priced consumer products, but has no plans to update existing versions of its pricier professional products such as Photoshop.

This scenario is echoed with other mainstream software developers, including Symantec, Intuit, and some Microsoft products such as Office, Works, MS Money, and SQL Server. According to a Microsoft spokeswoman, there are already "thousands of applications" compatible with Vista, but she acknowledged that few of them have been formally tested.

There are some outside experts who agree that in the grand scheme of Windows' evolution, the shift from XP to Vista is relatively minor. "Going from Windows 95 and 98 to Windows 2000 and XP was a revolutionary shift. The move from XP and Vista is more incremental" said Scott Matsumoto, a principal consultant at software consulting firm Cigital Inc. In general, porting software from XP to Vista will require developers to "make lots of little changes" rather than massive rewrites, he said.

It's unlikely that the vendors will share that view since they bear the cost of developing, testing and supporting their software on different platforms.

Vista's security and installation process enhancements are already causing headaches for security and disk utility vendors. DirectX 10 API and Windows presentation Foundation, a new graphics infrastructure is causing headaches for game and multimedia vendors.

Not all users are going to care, however. Larger corporations that generally pay for high priced maintenance contracts such as Microsoft's Software Assurance program guarantees them the latest upgrades. A lot of consumers and small businesses already pay annual subscription fees to get the latest updates for antivirus and antispyware applications, so charging customers for Vista support probably won't create equal amounts of resentment.

Before you decide to upgrade to Vista, consider the software you're using now and if you're willing to continually pay for upgrades to Vista compatible software on top of the over-inflated cost of Windows Vista.

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