Microsoft soon will be adding a new edition of Windows 10 to its lineup. That edition, Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, may include more than just a new name and feature set. It also may come with a change to the way Microsoft licenses and prices Windows 10 for its PC maker partners -- who potentially could pass on these changes to end-user customers.
I've heard from a couple of customers recently who've been contacted by different OEMs about the coming changes. One said that Microsoft will begin licensing the Windows 10 Desktop operating system by processor family, and all PCs sold with Intel Xeon workstation processors will be affected by this change.
One customer said he was told there could be a price increase of roughly $70 per operating system for use on systems with processors with four or fewer cores. For machines with Xeon processors with more than four cores, there could be a price increase of roughly $230 per operating system, I was told.
Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is going to be available around the time Windows 10 Fall Creators Update starts rolling out, which is October 17. Windows 10 Pro for Workstations will be available as a paid upgrade -- the exact cost of which Microsoft still has not disclosed publicly -- to Windows 10 Home or Pro, as well as pre-installed on new high-end PC/workstation systems.
The guide describes Windows 10 Pro for Workstations as being required for systems with Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors, and available as an option for other devices.
Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is designed for high-end hardware with Fast I/O with persistent memory, fast file sharing, Resilient file system (ReFS) and up to four physical CPUs and 6 TB of memory. From the documentation, it looks like support for Intel Core i9 and AMD Ryzen Threadripper will be added with Windows 10 "Redstone 4," which is targeted for March/April 2018.
In other licensing and pricing changes, Microsoft also apparently is extending its Windows 10 downgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 Pro until October 31, 2018, according to customers who've heard this from their OEM suppliers.
But customers -- typically small/mid-size businesses -- who buy PCs and don't add volume license coverage for them -- are subject to OEM licensing terms that come with the PC. I have heard Microsoft assesses OEMs a fee if they shipped a Windows 10 Pro licensed PC for Windows 7/8.1. PCs that include "Windows 7 Pro with Windows 10 Pro Downgrade Rights" basically come pre-installed with Windows 7. (In late 2016, Microsoft no longer allowed OEMs to ship new PCs with Windows 7 or 8.1 licenses only.)
Customers with whom I've spoken say they are hearing that Microsoft is going to increase the price of the downgrade-rights version of Windows 10 to Windows 7/8.1 Pro as of the end of this month. One OEM told a customer the price increase could be as much as $270 per license more than what they've been paying. Some are speculating that Microsoft is doing this to further tighten the screws on Windows 7/8.1 users who have not moved to Windows 10.
I asked Microsoft for comment on both of these alleged price increases. A spokesperson said the company had no comment on the Windows 10 Pro for Workstations pricing.
Regarding the downgrade rights increase, a spokesperson sent this statement, which did not address the pricing piece of the question:
"In OEM licensed versions of Windows 10 Pro, end users will continue to have downgrade rights to the two prior versions of Windows Pro products. End users can downgrade from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 8.1 Pro or from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 7 Professional.
"Windows 10 downgrade rights are available until the end of the extended support for Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 7 Professional respectively. End users can go to this page for additional information."
(Hat tip to sysadmin @cdorf17 for help with this post.)
Update: An OEM price list shared with me by a contact shows the list price of Windows 10 Pro for Workstations (up to four cores) is $144; for more than four cores, $214. Comparatively, for fiscal 2018, Windows 10 Pro Standard is $117, a price listed as $2 more than the FY 2017 one. OEMs are eligible for volume and other types of discounts.
That same price list shows Windows 10 Pro Standard with Downgrade rights increasing by $30, from $135 in FY 2017 to $165 in FY 2018. That same price list shows Windows 10 Pro Standard with Downgrade rights increasing by $30, from $135 in FY 2017 to $165 in FY 2018. Windows 10 Pro for Workstations with Downgrade rights for machines with four or fewer cores costs $174, that price list indicates and $244 for machines with more than four cores.