'Dumb' Windows 7 upgrade chart sparks spat

Analyst knocks complicated Microsoft matrix, bloggers argue, Apple fans mock

A chart Microsoft provided to a Wall Street Journal columnist that spells out which versions of Windows and XP can be upgraded to Windows 7 without a cumbersome "clean install" is causing a dust-up between bloggers and prompted Apple users to poke fun at Microsoft's upgrade process.

The chart, which Microsoft provided to Walt Mossberg, who writes the popular "Personal Technology" column in the Wall Street Journal, consists of a 66-cell matrix that details what XP and Vista users face when upgrading to Microsoft's next operating system.

Only 14 of the cells indicate an "in-place" upgrade, one that retains all data and applications, but simply swaps out the OS. Vista Home Premium, for example, can be upgraded in-place only to Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Ultimate.

The remaining 52 cells show where users must do a "custom" install, also often referred to as a "clean" install. That process requires users to back up data and settings, install Windows 7, then restore the data and re-install all applications.

Ed Bott, a noted Windows blogger and author, called the chart a public relations mistake -- "Someone at Microsoft is secretly working for Apple," he said in a Thursday post -- but said concerns over the size of the matrix, and the overwhelming number of "custom" cells, is overblown.

"Most customers considering an upgrade will be running one of a handful of Windows products," Bott said. "If they are using Windows XP, they'll need to do a custom install to move up to Windows 7. That was announced ages ago. Most Vista users will have clear and logical upgrade paths from their current edition to the same edition of Windows 7."

Bott crafted his own version of the chart that reduced the cell count to 14, half of the cells marked as suitable for "in-place" upgrading.

Joe Wilcox, a former JupiterResearch analyst and now a blogger and contributor to BetaNews, countered Bott's contention that things are not as bad as the Microsoft chart showed. "Ed uses smoke and mirrors -- a mistake regarding Windows Starter -- to try and discredit the chart," Wilcox argued.

"God bless him, Ed spent hours redoing Microsoft's chart to something simpler," Wilcox continued. "It's too simple, ignoring the many real 32-bit and 64-bit combinations that consumers will encounter as they decide on which Windows 7 edition is right for them."

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