Microsoft's Windows 8 Pro upgrade discount will expire in about three weeks, at which point the company will triple or even quintuple the current price of the new operating system, according to several online retailers.
On Friday, Microsoft reminded customers that a different upgrade deal will expire Jan. 31 -- one that lets purchasers of new Windows 7 PCs acquire Windows 8 Pro for $14.99 -- but made no mention of the same deadline for an upgrade from Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 on older PCs.
That discount, also set to end Jan. 31, prices a download upgrade to Windows 8 Pro at $39.99, or $69.99 for a DVD.
Microsoft announced both deals in mid-2012, and began selling the upgrades in October when Windows 8 debuted in retail.
According to online retailers, including Amazon, Newegg and TigerDirect, the DVD-based Windows 8 Pro upgrade carries a suggested list price of $199.99, or nearly triple the now-discounted price of $69.99.
Although Microsoft has repeatedly declined to comment on post-January pricing plans for Windows 8 Pro, its past pricing practices sync with the $199.99 list price: An upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, analogous to Windows 8 Pro, has always been priced at $199.99. Microsoft's e-store currently lists it at that price.
It's unknown whether Microsoft will continue to sell Windows 8 Pro as a download after the discount expires, and if it does, at what cost. If the price of a download is identical to the boxed copy -- Microsoft has priced downloads and DVDs identically in the past -- then the OS price will jump five-fold on Feb. 1.
The company has also declined to answer questions about Windows 8, the less-capable edition pre-installed on most new consumer PCs. But its silence has effectively confirmed that there will never be a Windows 8, as opposed to Windows 8 Pro, upgrade.
There is another, less-expensive, option after Jan. 31: Windows System Builder, the version for do-it-yourselfers who assemble their own machines, and who want to run Windows in a virtual machine or dual-boot configuration. While the new "Personal Use License" of System Builder bans using it as "an upgrade license for an existing underlying Windows operating system," there's nothing stopping customers from using it to do a "clean install," the term for installing an operating system on a reformatted hard drive.
Microsoft does not sell Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro System Builder itself, leaving that to retail partners. Although some offer minor discounts, the list prices are $99.99 (Windows 8) and $139.99 (Windows 8 Pro). Those are identical to the prices for "OEM" editions -- the former name for System Builder -- of Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional, respectively.
Another price that may jump after Jan. 31 is the Windows 8 Pro Pack's, which upgrades Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro. Microsoft sells Pro Pack at $69.99; retailers currently sell it at that price or the slightly-lower $66.99, but note its list price as $99.99.
Other Windows 8 deadlines are also approaching: The Windows 8 Developer Preview of September 2011, the Consumer Preview of February 2012 and the Release Preview of May 2012 all expire Jan. 15. After that date, the free previews will automatically restart every one or two hours, and on-screen messages will tell customers that they must upgrade to a paid license.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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