Windows 7 Family Pack saves users money, Anytime Upgrades doesn't

Microsoft unveils prices for 3-license pack, in-place upgrades

Microsoft today announced the prices of a multi-license "family pack" for Windows 7, as well as the prices for the in-place Anytime Upgrades users can buy to bump up to the next level of the operating system.

As reported earlier this month when resellers leaked the information, the upcoming Windows 7 Family Pack will be priced at $149.99. The pack lets buyers upgrade as many as three PCs from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7 Home Premium. Microsoft will start selling the pack Oct. 22, the same day as Windows 7's debut, in the U.S., Canada and what Microsoft calls "select markets."

A spokeswoman said retailers will be able to take pre-orders for the pack starting Oct. 18, but added that she had no idea whether those pre-orders would be offered at a discount, as were pre-orders for Windows 7 this month.

Priced at $149.99, the Family Pack would save the buyer $210 over three separate Home Premium Upgrades. The $50 per license price tag for Windows 7 is a 38% savings compared to the $80 per license that Microsoft charged for a two-license family pack for Vista back in 2007.

Microsoft also revealed the pricing of its Anytime Upgrade scheme, which lets users move up the Windows 7 edition stack by buying, say, an upgrade from Starter, the version slated for the very cheapest netbooks, to Home Premium.

In that scenario, an AnyTime Upgrade costs $79.99, slightly less than the average price as leaked several weeks ago by four online resellers, who had it listed from $80.99 to $89.98.

Upgrades from Windows 7 Home Premium to Professional or Ultimate will cost $89.99 and $139.99, respectively.

At least one analyst has said those prices are too high to tempt users, particularly those who have bought inexpensive netbooks running Windows 7 Starter. "Microsoft needs to be more aggressive," Stephen Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group, said two weeks ago. "At those prices, there won't be many opportunities to [convince users to] trade up. If people are buying cheap [PCs] they're buying cheap for a reason."

Microsoft's not giving customers much, if any, discount once they have Windows 7. At suggested list prices, there's only an $80 difference between Home Premium Upgrade and Professional Upgrade, and $100 between the two "Full" editions. The Anytime Upgrade from Home Premium to Professional, meanwhile, costs $90.

It's even less enticing to take the Home Premium-to-Ultimate path using Anytime Upgrade. Microsoft's priced that at $140, higher than both the $100 difference between the retail Home Premium Upgrade and Ultimate Upgrade, and the $120 difference between the "Full" editions of those versions.

Even so, Microsoft worked to pitch the Starter-Home Premium route. In a post to the Windows Team blog, spokesman Brandon LeBlanc cited that scenario as one where Anytime Upgrade will be useful. "A customer may purchase a netbook thinking they would primarily use it for e-mail," he said. "Over time, they find they are using that netbook as their primary every-day PC. That person then decides they want their netbook to do more."

Baker countered, saying that Microsoft's May move with Starter -- it ditched the limitation that would have blocked users from running more than three applications at a time -- kills most users' motivation for upgrading to Home Premium. "Microsoft has said that Windows 7 runs pretty well on netbooks," Baker said, and if users take the company at its word, they won't feel the need to upgrade from Starter.

Windows Anytime Upgrades will be available Oct. 22, both as an electronic download or as a retail purchase; both will provide an upgrade product key, but no media.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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