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Invent-a-story: Free support for Vista SP1 update must be related to Vista 'problems' ... Even if it really isn't

OK, I just blogged about this issue, sort of, but what the heck.

Here's what's happening: As I noted in my own article about the arrival of Windows Vista SP1 to the public, Microsoft is offering free support to customers. This is how I worded it, in its entirety:

That's an important point: Because Microsoft offers service packs to customers, they support them directly, regardless of how you obtained Windows Vista. So you've got free email-, online chat-, or phone-based support waiting for you if something does go wrong.

And that's it. No sensation. No separate article about this one fact. Just a blurb in a wider article about the arrival of SP1. Simple, factual, to the point.

More important, perhaps, this free support isn't unique to Vista SP1. Microsoft has always provided free support for its service packs. That's what they do. It's available via toll-free phone, email, or online chat. Your choice.

But how do other tech publications handle this story? Let's look.

Infoworld/IDG/Computerworld: Microsoft provides free support for Vista SP1 installs

Microsoft is giving free support via e-mail, online chat, and telephone to users who experience problems installing Vista Service Pack 1

Microsoft is offering free support to any Windows Vista user experiencing problems with installing Service Pack 1 (SP1), according to a company spokesman.

"That's a good move on their part," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

Normally, Microsoft offers no-cost support only to users who bought Windows at retail. Users who obtained the operating system already installed on a PC are referred to the computer manufacturer, or OEM (original equipment manufacturer); the company's for-a-fee support runs $59 per request unless the user or business has a pre-paid support plan with Microsoft.

Verdict: Inaccurate. Suggests that this free support is unusual because Microsoft normally directs Windows support calls to PC makers. Analyst comment furthers suggestion that this move is unique. It's not.

Information Week: Windows Vista SP1 Complaints Draw Free Support From Microsoft

Microsoft is offering no-charge Vista SP1 help for all users via e-mail and online chat.

Microsoft has responded to numerous complaints about its new service pack for Windows Vista with an offer of free support for anyone having trouble installing or running the update.

Microsoft ordinarily directs Windows users with support issues to the PC makers from whom they purchased their systems. It typically provides direct support only if the user bought a boxed, standalone copy of the operating system.

Verdict: Inaccurate. Makes same BS comparison to PC maker support. States firmly that this free support offer was made in response to complaints. That is patently false.

Mary Jo Foley: Need Vista SP1 help? Call Redmond toll-free

Microsoft is providing free phone support for Windows Vista Service Pack (SP) 1 users — whether they get their SP1 from Microsoft or via a PC maker or other retailer — through March 2009.

There’s got to be a catch, right?

Surprisingly, the caveats are relatively minor. The help is specifically for SP1 installation and compatibility issues. And the offer stands through March 18, 2009.

According to M3 Sweatt, the Chief of Staff for Windows Core Operating System Division (COSD), the offer of free SP1 help is not unprecedented. Microsoft has provided free support for previous Windows service pack installations.

Verdict: Accurate if a bit sensational, but it's a blog and that's her style, so no harm, no foul. And Foley, to her credit, at least gets the non-unique nature of this offer correct. She even provides the toll-free US support number. Nice!

Two out of three of these people should be ashamed of themselves for being sensationalist and grossly inaccurate.

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