Even though the retail launch of Windows Vista just a couple of weeks away, Microsoft is still continuing to fine-tune its licensing and pricing details.
Sources said that Microsoft will announce some time over the next few days that the company will allow Vista Ultimate customers to purchase two additional copies of Vista Home Premium for somewhere between $50 to $99 a piece.
In order to qualify for the so-called "Family Pack" promotion, customers will first need to purchase at retail a copy of Vista Ultimate, which carries an estimated retail price of $399 U.S. The deal will not be offered to those who purchase Ultimate preloaded on a new PC, sources said; it will be for customers buying and/or upgrading via retail channels only.
Sources close to Microsoft were sketchy about some of the particulars. The exact price of the additional copies isn't clear: Some believe it will be $49.95 per copy; others, $99.95. Vista Home Premium's current estimated retail price is $239 per copy.
Microsoft is making multiple versions of Vista available on a single DVD, as part of its Windows Anytime Upgrade marketing plan. As a result, users who want to take advantage of the new promotion will be able to "unlock" the additional licenses from their DVD using a software key after paying for the additional copies by credit card, sources said.
Microsoft officials did not respond to a request for comment on the Family Pack promotion by the time this blog entry was published.
Ever since it announced its Vista pricing and licensing terms last year, Microsoft has been fine-tuning them, based on requests (and outcry) from its customer base.
In November 2006, Microsoft relaxed its policy regarding the number of devices upon which customers will be permitted to install legally a copy of Vista. Microsoft made the change due to complaints among its user -- and especially, its power-user -- base.
Some Microsoft developers and testers, most notably, Windows-Now.com founder Robert McLaws, have been advocating for Microsoft to consider some kind of family-licensing program. McLaws has been arguing since last summer that such a plan could benefit both Microsoft and its customers, if done right.
McLaws blogged in August 2006:
"If Microsoft were to make this (family discount program) happen, and every home that has more than one computer were to upgrade, Microsoft could realize at least $900 Million dollars in additional revenue. … I know not EVERY family will upgrade every computer, but of all the families I know, most have at least two computers in their house, and of those, most would rather upgrade them all at once.
"It’s a plan that has the potential to eliminate families unintentionally pirating software, AND it could get Vista onto millions of additional PCs. Will Microsoft actually do it? We’ll just have to wait and see."
Ultimately (no pun intended), the Family Pack discount is just one more way Microsoft is looking to continue to grow the Windows revenue stream, in a market where Windows already has more than 95 percent desktop operating-system market share.