Windows 7 Pricing: Good News, MostlyS

We finally received the official word on Windows 7 pricing. For the most part, people itching to upgrade immediately or buy a new Win 7 machine are in luck.

Odds are, you won't pay the official prices, so I'm telling you the launch specials first. If you play your cards right, you'll either get it as a free upgrade for buying a PC, or you'll pay $50 for Win 7 Home Premium and $100 for Win 7 Professional. It's not the $30 Mac users will pay for the Snow Leopard upgrade, but it's a move in the right direction.

Free Upgrades
If you buy a PC starting Friday, June 26th, it should be covered under a free upgrade plan. (I say "should" because it depends on the manufacturer, but most of them are jumping on this with both feet.) Say you buy a computer with Vista Home Premium this weekend; you get a Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade on October 22, free. If you buy Vista Business, you'll get Win 7 Professional, and if you buy Vista Ultimate, you'll get Win 7 Ultimate. There's no upgrade path for Home Basic (the reason is below) but as I understand it, the number of systems sold at retail with Home Basic on them are in the low single digits.

That should take care of most PC buyers.

The Half-Price Pre-Order Deal
People in the US, Canada or Japan who already own a PC running XP or Vista will be able to pre-order the upgrade disc at around half the price that they'll eventually sell for. The pre-order deal also starts Friday, June 26th, and will run for a limited time.

As I said, Windows 7 Home Premium, usually $120, will cost $50, and Windows 7 Professional, usually $200, will cost $100. Windows 7 Ultimate is not part of this discount plan, but it might get its own incentive plan later on. (You could technically buy Home Premium upgrade, then pay to convert it to Ultimate, saving at least a little cash.) The pre-order deal will be visible at store.microsoft.com and at "most major retailers."

What's this about a limited time? Mike Ybarra, general manager of Windows Product Management, told me that the pre-order deal will go away when a certain undisclosed number of licenses is sold. "We have enough quantity," he said, adding that the magic number was "equivalent to a year of Vista sales volume at retail." (Ironically, those of you who want this upgrade offer to last have to hope that the Mojave Experiment worked, at least a little.) Some Microsoft materials suggest that July 11th might be the cutoff for the deal, but from what I understand, that's an estimate—this is based on supply. Regardless, if you want Windows 7, pre-order the damn thing come Friday.

European Hijinks
Europe is getting kinda screwed in this deal, because of the European Commission's banning of IE8 from any Windows installer media. Basically, starting July 15th in France, Germany and the UK, Microsoft will be selling full versions of Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional at the discounted upgrade prices, but that means there's no way to upgrade directly from Vista.

Euros who buy Win 7 will be forced to perform a clean install, and migrate their data and apps over any way they know how. The logic is that, while the Windows team can do a clean install without IE8, there's not enough quality assurance on what an upgrade install would be like without IE8, with assorted HTML rendering apps co-existing in the OS already. Could be messy, says Ybarra. "We don't want to break anyone else's software, we don't want to break our own software, and we don't want the customer on the phone with support." That funky deal is supposed to run through December.

The Official Prices
So, now that we got the immediate realities out of the way, here are the "estimated retail prices" that we'll eventually see in stores, for the people who aren't yet moving on the upgrade offers:

Windows 7 Home Premium: $120 for upgrade; $200 for full version
Windows 7 Professional: $200 for upgrade; $300 for full version
Windows 7 Ultimate: $220 for upgrade; $320 for full version

To be clear, the term "upgrade" just means you already own and run a version of Windows on the PC you're upgrading. It's still a complete set of bits that you can clean install and even set up for dual booting. The "full" version is mostly for people who are building their own systems.

You may remember that there are other Win 7 SKUs such as Home Basic and Starter. Windows 7 Home Basic is not available in the United States or most of Europe though, along with residents of Burkina Faso and Vanuatu, Montenegrans will be able to buy it.

Windows 7 Starter will be offered to Dell, HP, Asus and other manufacturers to stick on netbooks. Just in case you were concerned, Windows XP will also be available, distributed and supported for 12 months after Windows 7 launches though limited to these same "small notebook PCs." I think Microsoft—and quite a few non-vested-interests—are expecting netbooks to ditch XP for Win 7 pretty fast.

When You Actually Get It
As we've previously reported, October 22 is the day when almost everybody gets Windows 7. Anyone, anywhere in the world, in 35 different languages, will be able to buy a Windows 7 PC on October 22. The actual box of software will be available in most countries, covering 14 languages, on the 22nd, with the other 21 languages getting their retail boxes by October 31. It's a damn fast rollout, especially given all of the terrain it's going to cover.

Stay tuned, because we're going to post more details on this pre-order business soon. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. Is this a good deal? Is it crap? And most importantly, are you going to pony up cash on Friday? [Windows Blog]

And don't forget to check out our Complete Guide to Windows 7, covering all the new features, plus our experiences with the Beta and RC1 releases.