RealTime IT News

Most Windows 7 Prices Same as Vista, Others Fall

With Windows 7's commercial debut growing closer by the day, many users and some PC vendors have been worried that Microsoft may be planning price hikes for the new system. That could stall any tech recovery right when it's starting to rebound.

Instead of trending higher, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) suggested prices for Windows 7 editions will remain in line with current prices for their Vista counterparts, and even feature significantly lower prices for Windows Home Premium, the company plans to reveal today.

As with Vista, upgrade editions of Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate will be $199.99 and $219.99 respectively. Full copies of the two packages will run $299.99 and 319.99. Both sets of prices are identical to current prices for the Vista editions.

Microsoft on Friday also begins a free upgrade program for people who buy Vista PCs between June 26, and October 22, the official release day for Windows 7.

The pricing announcement is one of Microsoft's last cards to generate attention around Windows 7 prior to its launch. Still unrevealed are Windows 7's "Release to Manufacturing" date, expected in the last half of July, and the location of the gala Microsoft traditionally holds to roll out a new release of Windows.

Best Buy special

InternetNews.com reported earlier this month that a leaked Best Buy memo revealed plans for an early upgrade program so users could pre-order upgrade editions of Windows 7 Home Premium, and Windows 7 Professional in advance of the release date for steep discounts.

As it turns out that the pre-order discount offer is actually going to be available from most of Microsoft's retail partners, not just Best Buy. All of these pre-orders are taken online only, not in a physical store.

In the U.S., the pre-sale offer runs for 16 days, beginning June 26 and running through July 11. The actual dates are staggered in some other countries.

Under the pre-order offer, Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade package will cost $49.99 while the Windows 7 Professional upgrade package will go for $99.99. After the upgrade special ends in July, the upgrade edition of Windows 7 Home Premium will be $119.99.

The offer only covers Windows Vista customers, however. Windows XP users will need to purchase the full version, as Microsoft is not supporting upgrades from XP to Windows 7.

"I think overall that Microsoft is being a good citizen," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told InternetNews.com.

However, don't cry for Microsoft. "They recognize that there's pent-up demand and they should do pretty well with this pricing," King said.

Also Thursday, the company plans to finally outline the basics of its so-called Tech Guarantee which, as of early June, has been officially renamed the Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program, or UOP. Unlike previous launches, Microsoft is shooting to release Windows 7 simultaneously worldwide.

Well, almost worldwide. Windows 7 will initially ship in 14 languages, with another 21 languages coming on October 31, the company said.

The 7E Edition

European Union (EU) customers, though, will not be able to get upgrade packages for their Windows Vista and XP machines. Instead, they will get full editions of Windows 7, but only have to pay the upgrade pricing.

"Because of what needed to occur around testing of Windows 7E, it became very clear that we would not be able to offer a retail upgrade version of that piece of software on October 22," Brad Brooks, corporate vice president for Windows consumer marketing, said in a statement.

The decision to only offer full product in EU countries is part of a move on Microsoft's part to comply with the European Commission, which has demanded Microsoft ship Windows 7 with competing browsers and without Internet Explorer as the default browser.

In order to try to head off any preemptory ruling by the EC, which could rule any day against Microsoft in its browser bundling case, Microsoft chose to ship editions of Windows 7 in the EU that have IE disabled. That version is known as "Windows 7E."

That means EU customers will have to do a clean install instead of upgrading their Windows Vista system. That means reinstalling everything from scratch. With an upgrade, they could migrate apps and device drivers.

"That's pretty big," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, told InternetNews.com, citing the several hours of extra time consumed by having to re-install all of the PC's applications and device drivers. "It's going to be interesting to see who EU consumers will get angry at, Microsoft or the EC," he added.