This week, Microsoft will finally announce its retail pricing terms for Windows 7. As expected, the overall prices are in-line with those of Windows Vista, and are not significantly lower (or, as some had curiously rumored, higher). That said, those that want to save significantly on Windows 7 can do so if they can pull the trigger in advance of the product's release.
Here's what's happening.
As with previous versions of Windows, Microsoft will offer Windows 7 in boxed, retail copies in both Upgrade and Full packaging. It will also offer these products electronically from the Microsoft Store online. Upgrade versions of Windows 7 are aimed at qualifying users of previous versions of Windows, and are thus less expensive. (And if you're running Windows Vista, they can be used to perform an in-place upgrade of that OS to Windows 7.) Full versions are more expensive and can only be used to perform a clean install of Windows 7. A third option, Windows Anytime Upgrade, lets you electronically upgrade in-place from one version of Windows 7 to another.
The estimated retail pricing for the Upgrade versions of Windows 7 in the US are as follows:
|Windows 7 Product Edition||Price||Vista price||Savings||Savings (%)|
|Home Premium (Upgrade)||$119.99||$129.99||($10.00)||8%|
The estimated retail pricing for the Full versions of Windows 7 in the US are as follows:
|Windows 7 Product Edition||Price||Vista price||Savings||Savings (%)|
|Home Premium (Full)||$199.99||$239.99||($40.00)||17%|
Windows Anytime Upgrade
Windows Anytime Upgrade (WAU) is Microsoft's electronic in-box upgrade technology, which will be provided in Windows 7 Home Basic, Starter, Home Premium, and Professional. The estimated retail pricing for the Windows Anytime Upgrade versions of Windows 7 in the US are as follows:
|WAU version||Price||Vista price||Savings||Savings (%)|
|Starter to Home Premium||$79.99||$79.00||-||-|
|Starter to Professional||$114.99||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Starter to Ultimate||$164.99||$199.00||($34.01)||17%|
|Home Premium to Professional||$89.99||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Home Premium to Ultimate||$139.99||$159.00||($19.01)||12%|
|Professional to Ultimate||$129.99||$139.00||($9.01)||6%|
Microsoft notes that the average price of Windows 7 Home Premium is about 10 percent less expensive than the corresponding Windows Vista product edition. And sure enough, that's basically true: The Upgrade version is 8 percent cheaper, while the Full version is 17 percent less expensive. But the pricing for Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate is unchanged from the Vista pricing.
Pricing outside the US is sometimes even worse. Those in the EU can save just 4 percent over Vista for the Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade version, while they'll save 13 percent for the Full version. (Again, the other editions are priced identically to Vista.) Meanwhile, the Upgrade version of Windows 7 Home Premium is 12 percent higher than Vista in the UK for some reason. The Full version is 12 percent cheaper.
Save big with Windows 7 pre-orders (Now expired in US)
While the estimated retail prices for the various Windows 7 versions are not substantially different than those of Windows Vista, Microsoft is offering a limited-time concession to budget-conscious customers, but only in select markets. In the US, Canada, and Japan, you can pre-order Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional between June 26, 2009 and July 11, 2009 (July 5 in Japan), and you will save well over 50 percent over the normal retail price.
Customers in France, Germany, and the UK can pre-order Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional July 15, 2009 through August 14, 2009, and while supplies last.
In the US, you can get Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade for $49.99 (a $70 savings) and Windows 7 Professional Upgrade for $99.99 (a $100 savings) during this time. This special offer is available online only from retail partners like Amazon.com and Best Buy, and via the online Microsoft Store (in participating markets). (The special pre-order prices vary per country.)
Users in other locales face similar savings.
Get it with a new PC: Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program
The Windows 7 General Availability date of October 22, 2009 doesn't allow Microsoft's customers to take advantage of back-to-school deals and have the OS preinstalled on new PCs over the summer. To address this problem, Microsoft is instituting a Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program so that users can purchase new Windows Vista-based PCs and later receive a free copy of Windows 7. The program begins on Friday, June 26, 2009 and will be made available via participating PC makers.
Here's how the Upgrade Option Program works: When you buy a PC from a participating PC maker with Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate edition, you will later receive a free copy of the corresponding Windows 7 product edition (Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate, respectively). The program is global--i.e. available in all markets in which you can legally buy Windows-based PCs--and will run through January 31, 2010. The program is free, with no shipping and handling charge. You can find out more information from the Microsoft web site.
Windows 7 E versions
Note: On July 30, 2009, Microsoft revealed that it would no longer foist the Windows 7 E Editions on Europe. This information is here for historical purposes only. --Paul
Because of the recent decision to meet Draconian European Union (EU) antitrust actions with versions of Windows 7 that do not include Internet Explorer (IE), Microsoft will not be offering retail Upgrade versions of the product at GA. But rather than punish customers in the EU for their overzealous antitrust regulators, Microsoft will instead provide the Full retail versions of Windows 7 in EU countries at Upgrade pricing. That's actually a significant cost savings, though those users will, of course, be unable to perform in-place upgrades of Windows Vista to Windows 7 (because that functionality is not supported by the Full versions). Microsoft expects this situation to last until at least December 31, 2009. At some point, traditional Upgrade packaging will be made available in the EU as well.
Note while that these "E" versions do apply to the UK, the UK has different (and higher) pricing than the rest of the EU, presumably because the UK has not adopted the Euro.
Windows 7 General Availability details
In addition to this week's pricing news, Microsoft also shared some more information about the General Availability (GA) of Windows 7, which is set for October 22, 2009. On that day, Microsoft's PC maker partners will begin shipping Windows 7-based PCs in all available language versions. This is a huge improvement over previous Windows versions, where different language versions would appear over time and some versions would not ship until months after the initial product launch.
For retail versions of Windows 7, the wait has dropped from months to just one week. Retail versions of Windows 7 will appear in 14 languages--English, Spanish, Japanese, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Chinese (Hong Kong)--on October 22, 2009. Then, one week later, on October 31, 2009, Microsoft will deliver the remaining Windows 7 language versions-- Turkish, Czech, Portuguese, Hungarian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Greek, Ukrainian, Romanian Arabic, Lithuanian, Bulgarian, Estonian, Slovenian, Hebrew, Thai, Croatian, Serbian Latin, and Latvian; 21 in all--worldwide.
Multiple PC licensing: The Windows 7 Family Pack
Unlike Apple, Microsoft has never offered a way for its customers to cheaply and easily license multiple copies of its OS for use on multiple PCs. This is a huge need, and Microsoft has been aware of this need since before Windows Vista shipped back in 2006. Well, here's some good news, sort of: Microsoft will, at least temporarily, offer a Windows 7 Family Pack for just $150 that includes licenses for three copies of Windows 7 Home Premium.
I would welcome even a small price cut in Windows 7, but when you consider the global economy and sagging PC sales, it's clear that Microsoft can and should have cut a lot deeper. I'd like to see the promotional upgrade pricing become the regular pricing, and then move up from there. Windows pricing is simply too complicated and too expensive. And as I previously expressed (see Pricing Malfunction: How Microsoft will Bungle the Windows 7 Launch in WinInfo), Microsoft's byzantine approach to this could seriously derail excitement in what is otherwise an absolutely fantastic product.