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By | Thomas C Greene 16th February 2007 14:31

Vista OEM 'Express' upgrades stuck at the gate

People actually redeeming vouchers

Europeans who bought a new PC in time for Christmas and were persuaded that they would get a Vista upgrade soon after the rollout by redeeming a voucher, are learning that demand for the upgrades far outstrips "supply".

We don't think anyone should be in a hurry to embrace Vista, but people do tend to want what they've paid for.

According to anecdotal reports, the Vista voucher programme, called "Express Upgrade" was crucial to selling XP-based PCs during the Christmas shopping season, as MS had fumbled badly on timing Vista's release. No one wants to buy a durable product for the brats when the "next generation" is to be released only weeks after Christmas, especially with children so eager to taunt each other over minute trivialities like the date one's bugware was released.

Wisely, MS and the OEMs anticipated much buyer resistance and began marketing "Vista Ready" PCs with an operating system upgrade voucher. What they did not anticipate, apparently, was the fact that most buyers would actually wish to redeem their vouchers.

Microsoft's European "fulfillment partner", that is, the outsource outfit whose thankless job it is to exchange the vouchers for copies of Vista, is ModusLink, which describes itself as "the global powerhouse in supply-chain management".

However, according to several forum threads started by disappointed customers, the global powerhouse is mired in backlogs and snafus so severe that, at one point, the company ceased answering its phones. Buyers also report seeing contradictory or inaccurate information relating to their redemption orders on the ModusLink website dedicated to Vista voucher fulfillment.

Some say their orders have been accepted and then later cancelled, requiring them to begin again; others report that their orders were rejected outright and had to be submitted multiple times. Many who say their orders appear to have been processed correctly can still find no information related to when shipping might commence. There have even been reports of credit cards being charged for shipping and handling after the online transaction failed.

An employee of MESH Computers wrote in a forum thread started by disgruntled MESH customers holding Vista vouchers that ModusLink "appear to have grossly underestimated the number of applications and so have been hit massively with constant queries and applications".

Microsoft told The Register that "due to the popularity of the Express Upgrade programme, Microsoft's fulfilment partner ModusLink is experiencing a spike in demand that is resulting in a temporary backlog in answering consumer telephone queries and emails. To assist customers with routine queries, self-help guides are now available".

We are curious to know where these self-help guides are located. MS didn't happen to include a link in their email to us. We think the guides are accessed by clicking on the Vista image toward the bottom of the ModusLink main voucher redemption page. But these guides have nothing to do with getting ModusLink to cough up information regarding one's order. The "self-help guides", if we did indeed find them, are just Microsoft's Vista product information sheets.

Nevertheless, MS remains confident that "all valid orders that were placed before the 31st January will be fulfilled within 28 days as per the agreed terms".

Or, to put it another way, no one should be at all put off by the mere fact that ModusLink has no record of their order. It's all going to come together in the end. ®

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