Microsoft unveils 'screaming deals' for Windows 7

Earlier this year, Microsoft promised aggressive offers to win over would-be Windows 7 buyers. Today, the company made it official, touting a "screaming deal" for anyone willing to order a Windows 7 upgrade more than three months before the software officially goes on sale. Is a 50% discount enough to get you to buy now?
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

Move over, Crazy Eddie. Step aside, Cal Worthington. Ron Popeil, you’ve been pre-empted.

Earlier this year, Microsoft promised “aggressive offers” to win over would-be Windows 7 buyers. Today, the company made it official, touting a “screaming deal” for anyone willing to order a Windows 7 upgrade more than three months before the software officially goes on sale.

First hints of the “special, time-limited offer” first surfaced several weeks ago when a memo from consumer electronics retail giant Best Buy was leaked to Engadget. The details in that memo were correct; in fact, the program is actually more widespread than it first appeared. Here are the details:

  • The program kicks off tomorrow, June 26, in the United States, Canada, and Japan. It’s scheduled to end July 11 in the U.S. and Canada and on July 5 in Japan—”or while supplies last,” Microsoft notes.
  • The discount is 50% or more over the normal estimated retail price (ERP) of the two mainstream consumer editions. In the United States, you’ll be able to buy a Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade for $50 or get Windows 7 Professional for $100. Outside the U.S., Microsoft says, “the special low pre-order price will vary by country.”
  • The offer is available online at Best Buy and Amazon.com. For the first time that I can remember, the online Microsoft Store will match these discounted prices instead of sticking with the full list price.
  • If you live in the United Kingdom, France, or Germany, the pre-order period will open on July 15 and close on August 15—or while supplies last.
  • Update 11AM PT: There's a per-person limit of three copies of each edition, according to Microsoft's FAQ. Also, you qualify for the upgrade pricing with any computer running any version of  Windows XP or Windows Vista. This is true even if you are not able to perform an upgrade installation.

So what happens to pricing when the promotion ends? As part of today’s announcement, Microsoft also unveiled its price list for retail copies of Windows 7 (upgrade and full packaged product). The bottom line? A modest price cut for the most popular Windows edition, Home Premium, compared to its predecessor, and no change for Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate editions. (My colleague Mary Jo Foley has an analysis of the impact of the new pricing on Microsoft’s bottom line.)

Estimated retail prices for packaged retail product in the United States are as follows:

Windows 7 Edition Upgrade Full license
Home Premium $120 (was $130) $200 (was $240)
Professional $200 $300
Ultimate $220 $320
The ERP for Windows 7 Home Premium is reduced by $10 (8%) for the upgrade and $40 (17%) for the full packaged product. Based on the newly unveiled prices, the limited-time early upgrade offers represent savings of at least 50% (for Professional edition) and as much as 58% (for Home Premium).

Mary Jo Foley: Is Windows 7 pricing too high, too low, or just right?

Microsoft’s announcement today left out several important details: There’s no hint of what price it plans to charge for its Windows Anytime Upgrade product, which allow a Windows user to move up from one edition of Windows 7 to another in a few minutes. Based on this price list, I would expect the upgrade from Home Premium to Professional edition to be $100 or so, with the upgrade to Ultimate edition adding another $20 or so.

Even more curiously, there’s no feature matrix to help you understand which features are in each edition. Microsoft has revealed some details about the differences between editions, but they’ve left it to bloggers like me to ferret out the longer, more detailed list. (See From Starter to Ultimate: What's really in each Windows 7 Edition?)

Today’s announcement also confirmed details of Microsoft's global  Windows 7 Upgrade Option program, which allows PC makers and retailers to offer free upgrades to Windows 7 (fulfilled by Microsoft) for any PC purchased with a premium edition of Windows Vista. The program starts June 26 and ends January 31, 2010; PCs with Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate qualify for upgrades to the equivalent Windows 7 edition.

Finally, another detail slipped into today’s announcements has a major impact on European customers planning to purchase a retail copy of Windows. I’ve got those details in a follow-up post.

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