It turns out, even if you don't weigh in all the slightly confusing Windows 7 upgrade deals, Microsoft's latest OS is its least expensive to date, and a real bargain compared to Vista.
Looking at full (non-upgrade) pricing of consumer Windows editions really tells the story: When you compare sticker prices, you can see that most editions hovered around the $200 mark, with a rare spike found in the $260 Vista Home Premium. When you adjust for inflation, that fairly regular pricing becomes a downward cascade—except for that Vista price hike.
The pro versions of Windows, starting with NT, tell the same story. $320 across the board, with a dip when XP Pro followed quickly on the heels of Windows 2000. But when you calculate for inflation, it's just a smooth downward curve.
[Windows 7 Pricing: The Full Story; prices sourced from the following multiple or official locations: Washington Post, Businessweek, Microsoft, Cnet, Wired, Microsoft, CBROnline, Microsoft, Microsoft; inflation calculations made with Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Calc - Special thanks to Don the Intern for doing a ton of research on this!]