Microsoft will charge users who buy a new Windows 7 PC US$14.99 for an upgrade to Windows 8, according to a report.
The cost of the upgrade was revealed yesterday by Paul Thurrott, a popular blogger who writes SuperSite for Windows.
An earlier report by CNET had claimed that Microsoft would charge a fee for the upgrade, but had not spelled out the amount. CNET said that the program would kick off alongside the delivery of Windows 8 Release Preview.
Microsoft has said it will ship the preview the first week of June. If the company follows the same schedule it used in 2009 to deliver Windows 7's release candidate, the most likely date is Tuesday, June 5.
Eligible customers must purchase a new Windows 7-powered PC between June 2012 and January 2013.
Unlike the past two upgrades -- a 2006 program for Windows XP-to-Vista and the 2009 deal for Vista-to-Windows 7 -- Microsoft will this time not upgrade users to the corresponding Windows 8 edition, but instead will provide everyone with Windows 8 Pro, the higher-end version of the two that will be widely available at retail, said both Thurrott and CNET.
The two previous upgrade plans offered the newer operating system for either no cost or for a small fee. Details varied, as computer makers fulfilled the offer, with some demanding small fees while others provided the upgrade free of charge.
Some OEMs had given customers free upgrades to earlier editions as well. In 1998, Gateway, for years a Dell rival in the direct sales market, offered free Windows 98 upgrades to people who bought a Windows 95 machine prior to the former's release.
Although Microsoft has not divulged upgrade pricing for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, if it sticks to its current scheme, those versions will run customers $120 and $200, respectively. Microsoft's $15 charge for the Windows 8 Pro upgrade would then represent a discount of nearly 93%.
Apple, which is also releasing a new operating system upgrade this year, has not announced an upgrade program. Last year it offered customers a free copy of OS X 10.7, or Lion, if they bought a Mac equipped with Snow Leopard.
Apple's OS pricing, however, has been significantly lower than Microsoft's of late: Upgrades to OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, and Lion ran users $29 and $30, respectively.
Users ineligible for the low-cost Windows 8 upgrade may be able to score a copy at a substantial discount if Microsoft's promise of "limited-time programs and promotions" results in a repeat of the aggressive deal the company ran for Windows 7 pre-sales.
In mid-2009, Microsoft sold Windows 7 upgrades for between 50% and 58% off the sticker price, then delivered those orders after the late-October launch of the OS.
Microsoft will likely run the Windows 8 upgrade program through a website it registered in February.
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 email@example.com.
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