Vista OEM prices finally appear

The official Vista launch event is still a week away, but online retailers have already begun selling single OEM copies of Windows Vista. The surprising news is that consumer editions are selling for roughly the same as their XP counterparts, although business buyers may see a slight price increase. The real question is whether PC buyers will pay up for the pricier Ultimate edition.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

Over the weekend, I got an e-mail offer from an online retailer offering to sell me an OEM copy of Windows Vista. Although the official Vista launch isn't for another week, it looks like online merchants have jumped the gun.

Along with these announcements comes a hint of what OEM pricing will look like. I checked with two e-tailers I trust and found fairly consistent pricing for so-called System Builder products. At Mwave.com, the Home Basic (32-bit) edition is selling for $89.90 and Business edition (also 32-bit) going for $139.90. Mwave doesn't have prices posted for Ultimate or Home Premium yet.

Provantage.com has a full line-up of 32- and 64-bit Vista OEM editions for sale at the following prices:

These prices are good benchmarks of what new PCs will cost when they begin appearing with Vista pre-installed. Last August, I surveyed XP prices, including OEM editions, and found that XP Home was typically selling for about $90, with Media Center Edition (the predecessor of Vista Home Premium) going for around $120 and OEM XP Pro prices hovering in the $130+ range. Judging by this limited data set, prices for consumer PCs aren't changing much in the XP-to-Vista transition, but business buyers can expect to pay about $10 more per license.

The real question is whether Microsoft can convince Windows buyers to shell out the extra $80 or so for the upgrade to Ultimate edition from Home Premium when they purchase a new PC. If they can convince even 10% of PC purchasers that the upgrade is worth it, that will represent a major bump in revenue.

Last September, I called the pricing for Ultimate edition "price gouging." Now that the first wave of Ultimate Extras have been unveiled, I'm still not convinced that the premium price is fair or justified.

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