Microsoft to offer Family Pack for Windows 7 Home Premium

Microsoft to offer Family Pack for Windows 7 Home Premium

Summary: Every time the subject of OS licensing comes up, Apple's defenders point to the OS X Family Pack as one of the biggest differentiators between their favorite OS and Windows. But it looks like that difference is likely to go away when Windows 7 is released. I've got the text of a near-final license agreement for Windows 7 Home Premium as proof.

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Update: A few small retailers have inadvertently leaked details of Family Pack and Anytime Upgrade pricing. See my follow-up here: Windows 7 Family Pack, Anytime Upgrade prices leak

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In two recent posts (Windows 7 versus Snow Leopard: How much do upgrades really cost? and Do you need more than Windows 7 Home Premium?), I took a closer look at the differences between Windows 7 editions and their counterparts from Apple. In the Talkback section of both posts, several commenters noted that Microsoft is still far behind its archrival in Cupertino. Until Microsoft comes out with a Family Pack license, they say, Apple will continue to have the upper hand.

Well, maybe the wait is over.

Thanks to a tip from Kristan Kenney, I took a close look at the agreements embedded in the License folder of the latest leaked builds of Windows 7. This is no longer a beta license agreement and is presumably very close to the final agreement that customers will accept. The agreements for retail copies of Windows 7 Home Premium contain this eye-opening clause:

If you can't read the screen shot, here's the relevant section: "If you are a 'Qualified Family Pack User', you may install one copy of the software marked as 'Family Pack' on three computers in your household for use by people who reside there." (And a proofreading note to Microsoft Legal: Fix the typo in the last sentence of that clause before RTM.)

When I first wrote about Windows 7 pricing last month, I speculated that Microsoft was likely to have a program like this up its sleeve:

What else can we expect to see? Back in early 2007, Microsoft offered a so-called Family Discount for Windows Vista, which allowed anyone with a Vista Ultimate license to purchase two Home Premium upgrades for $49.99 each. I expect to see an improved version of the Family Discount this time around. If Microsoft wanted to aim directly at its archrival Apple, it could sell three Home Premium upgrade licenses (to be used only in a single home) for $199 or less.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Microsoft prices the Family Pack at $189, which is $10 less than Apple's Family Pack (although Apple's license is good for five Macs in a single household).

By the way, these same terms are also contained in the license agreement for Windows 7 Home Premium E (the one sold in Europe, sans Internet Explorer), as well as the N, K, and KN Home Premium versions, which are also deliberately gutted of one or more features to satisfy antitrust authorities. The Family Pack language  is not included in the license agreement for any other Windows 7 edition.

Just as with Apple's Family Pack license (PDF), the deal will apparently be restricted to users in a single household and is not available for business users. Apple's agreement specifically says: "The Family Pack License does not extend to business or commercial users." No such clause is in the Windows 7 license agreement, but it's probably contained in the definition of a "Qualified Family Pack User," which is referred to in a link that isn't yet live.

In some respects, this is an extension of Microsoft's licensing efforts with Office 2007 Home and Student edition, which is licensed for use (PDF) on up to three computers in a single household. In that case, the product carried this restriction: "The software is not licensed for use in any commercial, non-profit, or revenue-generating business activities."

Update: My colleague Mary-Jo Foley asks some interesting questions about the the Vista predecessor:

Microsoft ended up offering a Family Pack for Vista, but wouldn’t confirm its existence until just before the worldwide launch of Vista in January 2007. The company made the Vista Family Pack available to users who bought Vista Ultimate at retail. (But Microsoft may have phased out the Family Pack offer, as it no longer shows up when searching the Windows site.)

I've mentioned that offer several times in the past few years. There are some very big differences between that deal (which was called the Windows Vista Family Discount) and the one that appears to be on its way for Windows 7. As the original press release (linked above) made clear, the Vista Family Discount was a "limited-time offer for customers who buy retail copies of Windows Vista Ultimate." In other words, it was a temporary discount on products that were otherwise licensed according to standard terms.

Also in that announcement was the news that it was a limited promotion that ran from January 30 through June 30, 2007. This deal, on the other hand, is actually named in the license agreement, which strongly suggests that it is a permanent addition to the list of retail packages and not a temporary promotion.

What price would you pay for a three-pack of Home Premium licenses?

Update, Noon Pacific time: Reached for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson says only, "We will continue to work with our partners and expect to have other great offers in the future as we lead up to and beyond general availability. We have nothing to announce at this time."

Topics: Microsoft, Apple, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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Talkback

230 comments
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  • 3 Full copies or 3 Upgrade copies?

    The hard thing about comparing OS X with Windows is that you can only compare the Windows Upgrade version to the OS X in the retail chain because Windows Full, unlike OS X or Windows Upgrade, will let you legally install the OS on 'virgin' hardware without a prior license.

    Having said that does this '$189' family pack contain 3 copies of the upgrade or full versions?

    I would assume this is only for Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade.
    mikefarinha
    • RE: Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade

      I agree that it would be the upgrade, rather than 3 full versions. I'm more interested in what O/S I can u/g from, as none of our computers have Vista installed, only XPsp3 and Win7RC. The other thing of interest to me is will this also apply to 64 bit versions?
      RealAusTech
      • Upgrade conditions

        Microsoft has already made it clear that upgrades will apply to any version of Windows XP or Vista and that both 32-bit and 64-bit media will be in each pack.
        Ed Bott
        • how about RC

          Does RC qualify for upgrade?
          nothingness
          • You didn't really just ask that question?

            The RC is an "Evaluation Only OS" not a fully
            fledged OS that can be considered a purchased
            product. If you are using Windows 7 RC, and do not
            have another copy of Windows XP or Vista, then
            when the RTM comes out you will need to buy a full
            license.
            xXSpeedzXx
          • Riddle me this, Bott-man...

            I have a Vista Ultimate license, but I wiped my drive and installed Win7RC fresh. Could I upgrade from Win7RC to Win7HP, and just enter my valid Vista license when the wizard prompts for it? That way I won't have to wipe to PC again?

            I think most of us have valid OS licenses, we just have Win7RC installed at the moment.
            MaxKorban
          • "Most of us"

            [i]I think most of us have valid OS licenses, we just have Win7RC installed at the moment.[/i]

            Who is "most of us." I certainly didn't wipe my main PC and install RC on it. I put RC in a VM.

            If you wiped your main PC and installed RC on it that's on you. MS clearly suggested you do not install an evaluation OS on your main computer. The sensible thing to do would have been to either install RC on another partition, on another hard drive, or in a virtual machine.


            [i]Could I upgrade from Win7RC to Win7HP, and just enter my valid Vista license when the wizard prompts for it?[/i]

            That would be convenient, but I doubt it.
            tikigawd
          • The wizard never prompts you for an old license!

            You don't need to provide any proof of license. Most people qualify. If the Vista Ultimate sticker is on your PC, it's still got a license that qualifies it for an upgrade, even if you wipe the disk clean or installa different OS on it.
            Ed Bott
          • @Ed: I have to ask...

            How does the the Windows disk know you had a valid copy if you
            wiped/replaced the drive? It's got to find out somehow, and if the
            data's not on the drive, you've got to tell it.
            Vulpinemac
          • @vulpine: It doesn't

            [i]How does the the Windows disk know you had a valid copy if you wiped/replaced the drive?[/i]

            It doesn't. Microsoft trusts that if you purchased the upgrade, it is because you already own a license to a previous version.
            NonZealot
          • I didn't ask you, Zealot...

            ... and the question still stands. [b]How does it know you have a
            valid copy of Windows?[/b] Unless you tell it somehow?
            Vulpinemac
          • Wow, that was harsh!

            I just answered the question that you asked and you insult me? How nice. Regardless:
            [i]How does it know you have a valid copy of Windows?[/i]

            [b]The answer is that it doesn't.[/b] Microsoft trusts that you won't deceive them.

            How does Apple know that you aren't installing the family pack on more than 5 computers? [b]The answer is that it doesn't.[/b] Make sense now that I've put it in terms of Apple?
            NonZealot
          • @zealot: Nope, but then, I haven't installed Win7 yet.

            So I honestly don't know. I do know that the Upgrade version of
            Vista DID ask for verification. And we all know that with Vista, at
            least, Microsoft didn't trust a single user--not even inside their
            own campus.
            Vulpinemac
          • No it didn't

            [i]I do know that the Upgrade version of Vista DID ask for verification.[/i]

            No, that isn't true. In fact, Vista [b]did away with asking for verification[/b].

            http://www.geekstogo.com/forum/Clean-install-using-Windows-Vista-Upgrade-t147142.html

            [i]And we all know that with Vista, at least, Microsoft didn't trust a single user--not even inside their own campus.[/i]

            So you were wrong about Vista upgrade needing an old license key, hmm, kind of makes us wonder what else you are wrong about. :)
            NonZealot
          • Must reinstall XP/Vista to upgrade over it

            Obviously you need to reinstall the licensed OS in order to upgrade to Win7 over it. All upgrades work this way, requiring the licensed OS to be in place to upgrade over it. I will do it on a separate partiion, drag my files over, make sure everything is good to go, and then delete the RC partition.
            gregrocker
          • It appears someone else chose to contradict you, Zealot

            Through personal experience, I happen to know that Vista quite
            clearly asked for the license number of a previous version when I
            attempted to install a Vista upgrade onto a clean, unused disk.

            This clearly makes me wonder just how much you really know
            about what you're such a Zealot of.
            Vulpinemac
          • Who contradicted me?

            gregrocker said you needed to have an OS installed before you could install the upgrade. This is technically true. What isn't true is that the OS needed to be your previously licensed OS. Did you read the link I sent you? There are hundreds more like it, all describing the same steps. You do [b]not[/b] need to install XP to install the Vista upgrade disc. Nor do you need to provide the license key. Read the link I gave you. At [b]no[/b] point do you enter the previous license key.


            [i]Through personal experience, I happen to know that Vista quite clearly asked for the license number of a previous version when I
            attempted to install a Vista upgrade onto a clean, unused disk.[/i]

            And just to really drill it into your head:
            http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2007/01/8717.ars
            [i] KB930985 clearly states: "you cannot use an upgrade key to perform a clean installation of Windows Vista." [b]According to Microsoft, this happens because Windows Vista does not check for upgrade compliance.[/b][/i]

            Hmm, should I believe your "personal experience" or should I believe arstechnica and the hundreds of "How to install Vista on a blank hard drive" links? You might want to have your memory checked since you are [b]factually[/b] incorrect about this one.
            NonZealot
          • Oh, my! Zealot, please tell me you didn't link...

            ... to a posting that showed you how to STEAL Vista! That
            posting
            clearly stated that it was a workaround to force an upgrade
            copy
            to think it was installing over a valid copy. That is NOT Vista
            not
            asking for a license number. Vista very clearly did ask for one,
            and the workaround basically told it to f*** off.

            It also meant you had to spend twice the time by installing
            Vista twice--to give yourself a supposedly clean install.

            OS X doesn't force you to jump through hoops on a clean disk,
            it just goes for it. I guess that OS X truly is a Full Install, even if
            it's labeled an Upgrade.
            Vulpinemac
          • Don't steal Windows

            [i]Oh, my! Zealot, please tell me you didn't link...
            ... to a posting that showed you how to STEAL Vista![/i]

            Um, no, that isn't showing you how to steal Vista, it is showing you how to install the Vista upgrade on a clean hard drive. If Microsoft chooses not to ask me for my XP license key, that is their choice. You saying that this is showing you how to steal Vista is like saying that telling us that Apple not limiting you to 5 installs with the family pack is showing you how to steal OS X. Microsoft, like Apple, has chosen not to check for your compliance but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be compliant.

            [i]Vista very clearly did ask for one[/i]

            Yes, it asked you for your upgrade key. Duh.

            [i]It also meant you had to spend twice the time by installing Vista twice--to give yourself a supposedly clean install.[/i]

            Yup, score one for OS X. Hey, OS X had to win at least one thing. :)

            [i]I guess that OS X truly is a Full Install, even if it's labeled an Upgrade.[/i]

            Gee, how do you think Vista was installed the first time in those instructions? It was installed on the clean hard drive [b]with the upgrade disc[/b]. The license is an upgrade key which is why the box says "Upgrade", the disc contains the [b]full[/b] version of Windows. In fact, there is [b]zero[/b] difference between the disc in a "Full" box and an "Upgrade" box. Proof is in the link since you could use that disc to install Vista [b]on a blank hard drive.[/b]

            Thanks for playing. :)
            NonZealot
          • Upgrade versions don't require proof of a previous license...

            In Vista and in Windows 7, there is NO eligibility check. For Vista, you have to start upgrade media from an installed version of Windows, but it doesn't have to be activated. We'll see if Win7 RTM behaves the same.

            The old idea of inserting a disk to "prove" you had a prior version actually proved nothing and was abandoned long ago.
            Ed Bott