Microsoft has announced Windows 8 upgrade price increases of as much as 400% that will take effect Feb. 1, when a three-month promotional discount ends.
The current $39.99 deal for a Windows 8 Pro upgrade expires in less than two weeks, on Jan. 31. At that point, higher prices similar or identical to those for Windows 7 will move into place, Microsoft spokesman Brandon LeBlanc confirmed Friday.
An upgrade from XP, Vista or Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro will cost $199.99 starting Feb. 1, LeBlanc said, a five-fold increase. The Windows 8 Pro Pack, which upgrades a copy of Windows 8 -- the edition installed on most consumer PCs -- to the more capable Windows 8 Pro, will run $99.99, a 43% jump from the promotional price of $69.99.
Microsoft will also add a new SKU to the mix that upgrades XP, Vista or Windows 7 to Windows 8, not the Pro edition. The price: $119.99.
The Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro upgrade prices are identical to the suggested list prices for Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional upgrades, but the Pro Pack's $99.99 is 11% higher than what Microsoft charged for the "Anytime Upgrade" from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional.
The prices were not surprising, as numerous retailers had long cited the after-discount costs for Windows 8 Pro and Pro Pack. The only real news was the availability of a Windows 8 upgrade, something that Microsoft had previously declined to confirm.
LeBlanc also noted that download and boxed copy prices were the same, a pricing practice Microsoft has used before.
Although Microsoft was applauded last summer when it unveiled the $39.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade, Friday's final price tag revelations show that Microsoft has little interest in mimicking Apple. Last year, Apple sold OS X 10.8, aka Mountain Lion, for $19.99. In 2011, Apple charged $29.99 for Lion.
Last summer, when Microsoft revealed the Windows 8 Pro discount, Stephen Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group, pointed out that it wasn't in the Redmond, Wash. company's interest to dramatically drop the price. Microsoft's goal, said Baker, was to sell new PCs, not get customers to upgrade old ones.
"It behooves Microsoft to get people to move to new hardware, so they're not going to make an upgrade extraordinarily cheap," Baker argued then. "This [upgrade cycle] is even more about hardware. Microsoft wants people to get off XP and into the new different types of hardware."
While customers have until the end of the month to take advantage of the Windows 8 Pro and Pro Pack discounts, other deadlines have already come and gone: The Windows 8 previews expired Tuesday, Jan. 15. Since then, the free previews have automatically restarted every one or two hours, and on-screen messages have told users that they must upgrade to a paid license.
More information on Windows 8's upgrade paths can be found on Microsoft's website.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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