Microsoft on Wednesday announced plans to make Vista, the newest version of its Windows operating system, available to consumers online when the product is officially rolled out at the end of this month.
The launch of the consumer version of Vista, which has been postponed several times, is now scheduled for Jan. 30. The operating system will be available in four consumer versions:
- Home Basic, with minimal functionality, priced at US$199 new or $99.95 as an upgrade;
- Home premium, which adds the sleek Aero interface and is priced at $239 new or $159 as an upgrade;
- Business, which is $299 new or $199 as an upgrade; and
- Ultimate, which will cost $399 new or $259 as an upgrade.
Consumers will have three new ways to buy, upgrade or license multiple copies of Vista once it is available. First, Microsoft will offer Vista for sale to consumers via direct download from Windows Marketplace using its digital locker technology, which adds security, resumes downloads if they are interrupted, and manages the installation process.
Windows Anytime Upgrade, meanwhile, will allow users of an existing version of Vista to upgrade to a higher-grade edition of the software at any time via an online transaction using a secure digital key, and for a discounted price. The manufacturer’s suggested upgrade prices are $79 to upgrade from Home Basic to Home Premium; $199 to upgrade from Home Basic to Ultimate; $159 to upgrade from Home Premium to Ultimate; and $139 to upgrade from Business to Ultimate.
Finally, for households with multiple PCs, Microsoft has a limited-time offer that permits customers who have bought one copy of Windows Vista Ultimate to license two additional copies of Home Premium online for a reduced price of $49.99 each.
“These new programs give our customers more flexibility and choice to ensure they get the edition that’s right for them,” said Brad Brooks, general manager of Windows Client Marketing at Microsoft.
Wave of the Future
Microsoft is winning praise for its decision to make the new operating environment available online.
“We’ve been delivering software in smaller packages online for some time now,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.
“It was only a matter of time before someone did a larger, complex project online. Whether it’s movies or software, online will increasingly be the delivery technology of choice. It’s more convenient for the consumer and less costly for the company,” he noted.
“It’s a great thing that Microsoft is doing,” added Michael Gartenberg, research director at JupiterResearch, “because it provides an easy path for consumers.
“The more ways they have to interact with, purchase and upgrade the product, the better it will be for Microsoft,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Consumers Could Move Quickly
The enterprise version of Vista was released in November, and businesses have been slower than expected to embrace it. However, the consumer market is different, Enderle pointed out.
“Business markets tend to go late — they have a long evaluation cycle, which doesn’t start until the product is at least somewhat mature. Consumers, on the other hand, can move on a whim,” he explained.
Microsoft may be banking on that whim, bolstered by Vista’s online availability, to propel consumer sales of the product.
“With Vista doing a first-quarter launch, it’s going to be much tougher to drive significant volumes now,” observed Enderle. “Online availability won’t hurt, and it could help — maybe by a few percentage points.”
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