Vista prices revealed!

Windows Vista Ultimate for $349? Vista upgrades for $99? Those are smart guesses for the final U.S. prices, based on a retail price list posted - apparently by accident - by the good folks at Microsoft Canada.

Update: Amazon now has retail prices for Vista, as well as a projected release date. Details here.

It looks like Microsoft has accidentally leaked some details of the price of its next-generation operating system. At least for customers who live in the Great Frozen North.

The Retail Pricing page at Microsoft Canada lets you choose a product name from a dropdown list and see the current pricing. Surprise! It includes a slew of SKUs for Windows Vista. (Update 28-Aug 8:00AM PDT: Well, that was fast! The Canadian price list I viewed earlier this morning appears to have been taken down, probably to remove the Vista SKUs. That makes the information even more interesting. Oh, and be sure to see my note at the end of this post on the pitfalls of using currency conversions to compare prices in different markets.) The following prices are all in Canadian dollars, and for comparison's sake I've included the retail prices of current versions of Windows XP:

FULL versions (all prices Canadian)

Windows Vista Ultimate $499

Windows XP Professional w/SP2 $429

Windows Vista Business $379

Windows Vista Home Premium $299

Windows Vista Home Basic $259

Windows XP Home w/SP2 $259

UPGRADE versions (all prices Canadian)

Windows Vista Ultimate Upgrade $299

Windows XP Professional w/SP2 Upgrade $259

Windows Vista Business Upgrade $249

Windows Vista Home Premium Upgrade $199

Windows Vista Home Basic Upgrade $129

Windows XP Home w/SP2 Upgrade $129

In Canada, at least, the rumors of a "modest" price increase were true, based on this list. Will these same relative prices hold true in the U.S.? Who knows? But if they do, then it's mostly good news for Windows customers. There's no price increase for Home Basic. Home Premium, the Vista version that maps most closely to the OEM-only Windows XP Media Center Edition, will finally be available as a retail product for a slight bump over the Home Basic product, similar to the $39 premium typically charged by large OEMs for Media Center upgrades. And Vista Business buyers will get a break with a small discount relative to XP Professional.

Based on current U.S. prices (which I wrote about last week), I would expect Windows Vista to sell in the U.S. for the following prices (full/upgrade):

Windows Vista Ultimate $349/$199

Windows Vista Business $269/179

Windows Vista Home Premium $239/$139

Windows Vista Home Basic $199/$99

Of course, these are guesses only. Some discounts will probably be available in the retail channel. OEM prices will, of course, be significantly lower. And I expect Microsoft to offer some enticing promotions when Windows Vista ships to encourage early adoption.

Update 8:55AM PDT: I notice some folks discussing this issue elsewhere are making a common mistake and simply converting the Canadian prices into U.S. dollars at current exchange rates. The two markets don't work that way. You'll get a much more accurate picture by doing what I've done here, which is to compare the relative prices of the new Vista versions to current XP versions and then make similar adjustments to the U.S. price list. You can do the same with other countries as well.

Update 1:55PM PDT: Hey, Gizmodo! You really, really, really need to read all the way to the end of the post. The prices you quote are just flat wrong. If converting those prices from CAD to USD is really a valid technique, why doesn't it work for Windows XP? Hmmm? I mean, Windows XP Home costs $259CAD, so us folks down south of the Canadian border must be paying $232 per copy, right? Oh, wait. The actual retail price is $199? Like I said, the two markets don't work that way.

Update 3:45PM PDT: Fellow ZDNet blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughes got this official non-denial denial from a Microsoft spokesperson: "Microsoft inadvertently posted Windows Vista Canadian retail prices on their Web site, and the information has since been removed. There is no new pricing information to share currently but we plan to announce Windows Vista U.S. pricing when we ship Windows Vista RC1, later this quarter." All righty, then.