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However, when I attempted to install the upgrade normally, it failed. It was not compatible with XP Professional - I assume because Vista Home Premium includes Media Centre, and can therefore be used as an update only for XP Media Centre edition. But note that the package failed to distinguish among XP editions. It did distinguish between 2000 editions, but it said flatly that I needed either the 2000 edition specified, or XP or Vista.

Nevertheless, when I attempted to upgrade my XP image, I was notified that it was impossible, and that my only options were to quit, or to do a clean install of Vista Home Premium, which would wipe out my XP image and all of my data with it.

Of course, I had to open the package to discover Microsoft's blunder. And that would make the software very difficult to return for exchange. So the idea of quitting was not terribly attractive. Neither was wiping my disk.

The Upgrade Advisor did recommend the Vista Business edition, but as I reported previously, the Upgrade Advisor is a joke. It couldn't detect half of my hardware, so I was hardly inclined to trust its software recommendations. And it never gave me the impression that I would experience an upgrade failure if I ignored its advice.

Microsoft has made a colossal mess of Vista upgrades with five separate editions that are each tied to specific previous editions of Windows, and very little in the way of guidance, except for a dysfunctional Upgrade Advisor. Few other companies would wager a product launch on a lame gimmick like that.

So when you think about it, the sensible thing would be to anticipate endless complaints from consumers stuck with the "wrong" update edition, and to try to placate them with the promise that if they would just part with all of their data, their installation problems can be solved.

It's a cheap thing to do, but it is in line with the company's overall attitude toward consumers. Hence the necessity of making every upgrade edition a stand-alone version, and the inevitable consequence that some bright empiricist will figure out how to force it to behave like one. ®

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