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Beta testers urged to rig ZD poll, as WinME retail push kicks off

And anybody in the UK paying more than £49.99 for the full version is a blockhead, apparently...

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As The Big Day dawned, evidence that Microsoft is making a serious attempt to make a massive commercial success of Windows ME is mounting. The software's official rollout is today, the public prints (in the UK, at least), bulge with special WinME deals bearing the thumbprint of MS co-op marketing money and - oh yes - we apparently have a blatant attempt to fix a ZDNet WinME poll.

The last one does appear to emanate from Microsoft, but we trust it's just freelance activity by some low-level operative, rather than high level corporate policy. Of course. An email apparently from one Elie Pieprz of microsoft.com was allegedly sent out to WinME beta testers, encouraging them to "vote early and vote often" in poor old Jesse Berst's Anchordesk WinME poll.

The email, passed on to The Register by a beta tester, says: "Hey folks, cast your vote for "Right Away" now and let Jesse Burst [sic] know what you think of Windows Me. Vote early and vote often." Ramming home the meaning of that last point, Pieprz adds "the site isn't sophisticated enough [a ZD site? Shurely shome mishtake - Ed] to know that you have already voted, so you can repeat as long as your boss will let you."

A representative of Microsoft attempting to pervert the democratic process and encouraging the employees of its corporate customers to goof-off during office hours? Surely not - but we'd be pleased to hear from any other testers who may have received the mail, or who could let us have some more info on the good Master Pieprz. The Anchordesk poll, incidentally, is tucked at the end of a Berst column whose message seems to be that people shouldn't bother upgrading to WinME, and asks readers to say when they'll upgrade: Right now; in a few months; when I buy a new computer; when hell freezes over. Register readers who want to take their own stab at perverting the course of justice should go here.

If that little lot really does emanate from Microsoft, it's almost certainly unofficial. But the promo deals are official, and although Microsoft may be taking something of a hit by running the special promotional upgrade price, it's probable that rather more Microsoft money is going into funding the special offers designed to make WinME a retail success. The upgrade offer for Win98 users is £39.99 in the UK and $59.95 in the US, and apparently is now to run through to January.

In the UK both PC World and Staples were offering discounts on other products when you buy the promo edition of WinME, £20 off "selected products" for Staples, and half price deals on some gear (a 3dfx Voodoo 3000 for £49.99 being the most obvious mug's eyeful) in the case of PC World. The way these deals usually work is that the company, in this case Microsoft, offers the reseller co-op marketing money to part-fund promotional activities around the particular product the company wants to push. The way the reseller mounts the push therefore tells you a lot about what the company wants.

There are a couple of interesting aspects to PC World's WinME push. It's currently advertising another "Special Windows Millennium Upgrade offer" in addition to the £39.99 deal. "Ask in-store for details," it said, so we did. Initially the response was, er, isn't that the £39.99 deal then, but eventually we got the response that on selected Packard-Bell and HP machines the store is offering upgrade vouchers that'll let you move the machines over to WinME for £19.99.

Rather more interesting is PC World's publication of a £49.99 price for the full version of WinME in a "student licence version." That's compared to the regular UK price of £139.99 for a complete WinME OS that you can install without having any kind of previous version of Windows to upgrade from. Only for students? Well, not exactly. "If you are a teacher, student in full-time education or parents with children in full-time education, you can buy the Full Version of Windows Millennium for this special price."

Sordid images of impecunious post-uni singles hanging around PC World entrances and begging kids to nip in and buy them a pack of £50 WinME spring to mind. A quick trawl of Microsoft US' somewhat byzantine educational discount structures today doesn't kick up an equivalent to the UK £49.99 deal, but that doesn't mean there isn't one. Info, anybody? ®

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