Israelis who have spent over NIS 1,000 to upgrade their English-language Windows XP to the new Vista computer operating system sold in Hebrew have not been warned by Microsoft Israel or most retailers that the systems are not compatible and won't work on their PCs, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The long-awaited new operating system for personal computers was unveiled by Microsoft Israel at its Ra'anana headquarters on January 29. But there is no warning or explanation on the plastic swivel box encasing the DVD-ROM that it can be used to upgrade only if you previously installed the Hebrew version of Windows XP or Windows Professional 2000. The word "Hebrew" - but no indication of language requirements for upgrades - is printed in tiny letters over the barcode on the side of the package.
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No such problem existed when one upgraded from Windows 98 to Windows XP five years ago or more.
The most popular version of the new Vista, called Home Premium, costs NIS 1,549 for the standalone when installed into a computer from scratch. But many XP users who want to use Vista on their existing computers have the English interface version and prefer to upgrade for less money than purchasing the standalone.
Branches of Office Depot and Bug, both software dealers, were unaware of the problem when contacted, but said they did not have any English versions of Vista. "It's Microsoft's problem; call them," said an electronics expert at a Jerusalem branch of Office Depot.
Microsoft customers have been invited to check whether their PCs are suited to Vista by going into the Vista Readiness Adviser site at www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/ buyorupgrade/upgradeadvisor.spx. But when an Israeli with an English-language Windows XP program linked to the site, the PC was declared suitable and the user was not informed of the requirements for an upgrade to the Hebrew Vista.
There is no mention on the box - whose program name is given in English - of what existing software is needed to upgrade to Vista, except for tiny Hebrew letters stating that Windows XP or Windows 2000 Professional are required.
A Microsoft-Israel technician called by the Post confirmed, when asked, that the Hebrew Vista upgrade "will not work" when installed on the English-interface XP or Windows 2000 and "would mess up your hard disk." However, he said he had not yet received any complaints from users.
Asked to comment, Microsoft-Israel said that it offers both the Hebrew and English versions of the Vista upgrade for sale in Israel. "If a customer makes a mistake upon purchase, he will be told [during installation] that the process cannot be carried out due to lack of language compatibility. In such a case, the customer should contact Microsoft-Israel's service center at (09) 762-5400 and exchange it - at no cost - via the retailer."
The company conceded that not only native English speakers in Israel use English versions of XP, but it did not have an estimate of how many such users were expected to buy an upgrade.
The Office 2007 software unveiled on the same day as Vista was presented as a standalone and not an upgrade, and is not affected.
Microsoft-Israel managing director Danny Yamin said at Vista's unveiling that "it should not be taken for granted" that Vista has come out in Israel in a full-Hebrew version on the same day as the New York launch of the operating system, which, together with Office, cost Microsoft an unprecedented $20 billion to develop.
"There are not many languages that only seven million people speak that can boast a Vista version," he said. "But this shows the importance with which Israel is regarded by Microsoft."