I’m going to give Dell one warning. Give folks their 64-bit media for Vista, when they request it. Dell claims that OEM copies of Vista cannot be switched between 32-bit and 64-bit installs. This is flat out wrong, a photocopied misconception, and a rather shameful response by the world’s largest PC maker.
For example, you can take an OEM 32-bit Product ID for Vista, and use the same product key with the standard OEM 64-bit install disc. Was that so hard?
Aparrently for Dell, it is. See, top-tier OEMs use different Product ID algorithms (to protect from piracy). So, you need a Dell 64-bit Vista Install Disc to use that license (which you’ve already paid for) as a 64-bit version of Windows. All Dell needs to do is hit the burn button on their CD copier, and put that disc in the mail when a consumer wants it. We’re more than willing to pay a $10 handling fee for your $2 disc.
What Microsoft says is that they will not assist OEM users in obtaining different media… because system builders can select between 32-bit and 64-bit media at purchase. Retail users have to pay a handling fee to obtain a Retail 64-bit disc (Ultimate Retail comes with both 32-bit and 64-bit discs). The reason Microsoft does this, is precisely because Dell, HP, and other top-tier manufacturers use their own algorithms… and thus, there are actually several OEM Vista discs.
What will happen if Dell (and others) don’t start making good on customer requests? Well, I personally think that they are breaking the law, interfering with the Microsoft EULA, which appears to permit OEM users to go the 64-bit migration route… making Dell the giver of “undue, unconscionable interference between Microsoft and the consumer” — Christopher Price. I don’t have a law degree (we’ll see about that later), but I’m warning Dell… lots of other class action lawyers do. Dell, according to Microsoft, and themselves, is the sole actor that could issue customers 64-bit media. The only other option for customers to enforce what their Microsoft license terms allow, is to pirate Vista, which in turn then breaks Microsoft’s license. Hence, Dell is forcing customers to either re-purchase Windows Vista, or violate their license with Microsoft.
Bear in mind, most customers don’t know the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit at purchase, and Dell really doesn’t reference the distinction (to the typical buyer). Guess what’s going to happen when those folks take their PCs into a shop and ask for a RAM upgrade of 4 GB or more?