Three months of free tech support is no small thing. But that's what Microsoft is offering to get SMBs to give its Vista operating system a chance.
The Small Business Assurance offer will be available to companies that purchase new PCs with Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate between July 1 and Sept. 30, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Todd Bishop, one of my favorite reporters covering the Redmond beat. (A weird open source impulse almost caused me to slip an "s" in there, but I thought better of it.)
Support will be available through Oct 31. SMBs upgrading existing PCs to Vista won't be eligible. Additional requirements: Companies must employ no more than 50 workers or have 25 or fewer PCs.
In what surely isn't a coincidence, the move comes little more than a week after Microsoft stopped selling Vista predecessor XP to retailers or PC manufacturers.
Greg Amrofell, small-business lead product manager in Microsoft's Windows division, says that the long and drawn-out discontinuation of XP has created anxiety among SMBs. He says:
In reaction to that feedback, we created this program to really provide resources to help them through the transition.
If SMBs try it, they'll like it, says Amrofell, citing Microsoft research showing that SMBs using Windows Vista are three times more positive toward it than those that haven't tried it.
Maybe the move will win Microsoft some love from PC manufacturers, who have been less-than-thrilled with Vista's ability to help them move new machines. Acer last summer even blamed Microsoft for sluggish sales.
Microsoft is also launching a $300-million-plus advertising campaign to help improve Vista's image.