Knowing that Microsoft would ship multiple editions of Windows 7 - including an EU-compliant browser-less version - it was never going to be easy to announce pricing for the upcoming operating system.
In true Microsoft fashion, pricing was revealed today and it left many consumers scratching their heads. We feel your pain, but there's no going back to a single edition at a set price. So, if you're contemplating picking up Windows 7 when it launches globally on October 22nd, here's what you need to know.
The Windows 7 Upgrade Offer
If October 22nd seems too far away, the Windows 7 Upgrade Offer will launch tomorrow - June 26th 2009 - and be offered by PC manufacturers around the world. It's up to manufacturers to join in, but most seem to be doing so, and it works like this: buy an eligible PC with Windows Vista starting tomorrow, and you'll be gifted a free upgrade to Windows 7 on October 22nd.
Naturally, system's purchased with Windows Vista Home Premium will be offered an upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium. Vista Business will translate to Windows 7 Professional, and Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate. All you need to do is be sure the manufacturer is taking part in the program.
That's system buyers nicely covered, but what about those who want to purchase Windows 7 come launch day?
Windows 7 launch-day pricing
|Windows 7 Home Premium (Upgrade)
|Windows 7 Professional (Upgrade)
|Windows 7 Ultimate (Upgrade)
|Windows 7 Home Premium (Full)
|Windows 7 Professional (Full)
|Windows 7 Ultimate (Full)
|Windows 7 Home Premium E (Full)
|Windows 7 Professional E (Full)
|Windows 7 Ultimate E (Full)
Readers should be aware that the upgrade editions listed above are applicable to users who own a prior Windows operating system. This, however, doesn't limit the software to upgrade installations - clean installs will be available.
In Europe, upgrade editions will not be available and clean installations will be the only option - leaving no means of preserving your existing programs and data. In an effort to appease the European Commission, the E edition products feature no built-in web browser and are full packaged retail versions offered at upgrade prices.
Microsoft adds that it expects the upgrade price to be available for full editions of retail packaged "E" products until at least December 31st 2009. In 2010, "E" edition pricing is expected to rise to £149.99, £219.99 and £229.99 respectively for Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate editions. Very confusing, we know.
Various reports had previously suggested that the "E" editions wouldn't apply to the UK market. We've spoken to Microsoft and confirmed that "the European editions of Windows 7 will be the only products on sale in the UK".
As for users with multiple PCs, it's more bad news. Despite the fact that multiple PCs are now common in many households, Microsoft still doesn't offer multi-PC licensing. Upgrade editions of Windows Vista can be installed on only one PC, and can't be transferred to another machine. An advantage of the full retail editions is that they're transferable between PCs - providing you only have it installed on one PC at any one time.
Microsoft has stated that it's evaluating multi-PC licensing, but, at present, the only way to run Windows 7 on multiple PCs is to purchase multiple copies.
It's all sounding rather complicated, and quite expensive, too, but there is a little more good news you'll need to be aware of.
Windows 7 pre-order promotions
Although Windows 7 pricing remains largely unchanged when compared to Windows Vista, Microsoft, it seems, is aware of the global recession and will be offering discounts to consumers who opt to pre-order.
If you're hoping to pay less, the Windows 7 pre-order promotions will run "while stocks last", and Microsoft assures us that stocks are plentiful.
For UK consumers, the pre-order promotion will run from July 15th to August 14th, 2009. Orders placed at the Microsoft Store or "select retailers" during this period will be priced at £49.99 for Windows 7 Home Premium E and £99.99 for Windows 7 Professional E.
For the US and Canada, an even better pre-order promotion kicks off tomorrow and ends on July 11th. North American consumers will be offered upgrade editions of Windows 7 Home Premium for $49.99 and Windows 7 Professional for $99.99.
Who'd have thought buying an operating system could be so difficult? Given the state of the global economy, we'd have hoped Microsoft's Windows pricing would be slashed - indeed, we'd like to see the promotional prices offered as standard. High prices and a complex choice aren't a welcome combination.
For UK consumers, what's the cheapest way to upgrade from Windows XP or Windows Vista on an existing system? Take part in Microsoft's pre-order promotion. Reserve a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium E from select retailers between July 15th and August 14th, and you'll be paying £49.99.
So, dear readers, which edition will it be for you? HEXUS.community member MorrisR seems to have summed it up best with a simple three-word comment: "my brain hurts".