The problem for PC owners has long been that buying Microsoft software – i.e. Windows and Office – has been very, very expensive – often more expensive than the hardware itself – while hardware prices have plummeted over the years.
These high prices have enabled Microsoft to build a US $60b mountain of cash, and have ensured that Windows and Office are the “cash cows” that keep Microsoft mooing all the way to the bank.
However, these high prices have clearly encouraged piracy, and they’ve helped to establish iPads and Mac OS X powered computers as solid alternatives to the Windows world.
So, when Microsoft decided to do a bit of “shock and awe” by announcing that the upgrade price for Windows 8 from 7, Vista and XP would be a mere US $39.99 in 131 markets, my first thought was “what’s the catch”?
After all, pricing a Windows upgrade at such a low price is just unusual for Microsoft, and it often comes with a time limited angle, thus making latecomers to the upgrade game pay a much higher price than available in the initial offer period.
This is in stark contrast to Apple, whose US $29.99 Snow Leopard upgrade was followed by a similarly priced Lion upgrade, with Apple even ensuring the upgrade to Mountain Lion will be even cheaper at US $19.99 – without any fiddly or stupid time limits.
So, while Microsoft has certainly and finally done the right thing by lowering the upgrade price for a downloadable version of Windows 8 to US $39.99, that price is only in place until January 31, 2013.
Presumably it shoots right back up to some triple digit figure thereafter, punishing anyone who deigns to damn well wait until sometime in 2013 to upgrade – when they’re ready – and not just because Microsoft says an upgrade is available.
There will also be those who will want to wait until Microsoft releases Windows 8 Service Pack 1, untrusting of Microsoft’s RTM code and wary of the new Metro system.
That said, Windows 8 is pretty solid and sweet, despite the switch to a Metro start sceen, but if you’ve got a happily running Windows 7 computer, there really isn’t any “must-upgrade” reason to upgrade – especially if you don’t want to waste time learning a new interface when you’re perfectly happy with the current one.
Indeed, unless you’re buying a new computer, especially one with a touch screen, Windows 8 might prove to be, initially at least, an upgrade that few want – even if the price is lower than it has ever been.
That’s probably the reason why Microsoft is suddenly being so incredibly “generous” with its upgrade prices. The company needs to sell copies of Windows, even if it means lower profits – lest the iPad and iMac loom so large in Microsoft’s window that it no longer sees the rolling green fields out the window but a cornucopia of profit-sapping iDevices instead.
Microsoft is also selling the upgrade for US $69.99 in a boxed edition on DVD, or you can also purchased the $39.99 downloadable version and pay an extra $15 to get a copy on DVD, with the “Windows Media Center” add-on for digital TV recording set to be a freely downloadable upgrade after previously indicating it would be sold at low cost.
But, folks, it’s all until January 31, 2013, after which the price will probably shoot up again – if Microsoft can afford to do so. Perhaps the “offer” will be extended at that time, but that hasn’t been Microsoft’s behaviour in the past.
Still, we live in an iWorld today, and circumstances have obviously forced Microsoft to change its behaviour.
To conclude, it’s fantastic to see Microsoft finally looking reality in the eye and realising that it had no choice but to offer seriously lower and far more realistic pricing for Windows, but unless Microsoft wants to become Microirrelevant, its price cut may well have to become Micropermanent.
Next up, cheaper Office pricing, too? We’ll just have to wait and see, but when Pages, Numbers and Keynote are US $9.99 each on iPads, and US $19.99 each on Mac OS X, multi-hundred dollar pricing for Office may well be about to change, too.