Microsoft to sell Windows 7 for $50

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Windows users in the U.S. will be able to preorder Windows 7 Home Premium for $50 starting Friday.

That's less than half what people will pay if they wait until Oct. 22, the day it becomes available, to buy the operating system.

Microsoft plans to reveal that special deal and other pricing details for its forthcoming operating system on Thursday.

It will begin letting people who buy PCs with Windows Vista starting this Friday upgrade to Windows 7 for free, once it becomes available in October. Observers expected Microsoft to make such an offer, as it has made similar offers with other versions of Windows. But until now, it hasn't been clear when the deal would come into effect.

The discounted preorder offer lasts from June 26 through July 11. People can choose from the discounted Home Premium offer or Windows 7 Professional, which will run for $100. In Canada the deal will last for the same time frame and cost C$65 (US$56.38) for Home Premium and C$125 for Professional.

The low price seems aimed at trying to make it really easy for people to choose to move to Windows 7, said Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. "It's to Microsoft's advantage to get as many people upgraded as they possibly can. So much of the Windows 7 work has been removing barriers to upgrading. So they're taking the steps with pricing to try to get people to think about not waiting," he said.

Similar preorder offers will be good in France, Germany and the U.K., and run from July 15 through Aug. 14. In Japan, a discounted preorder deal will also start this Friday but end July 5.

The offer is available to users of Windows XP or Windows Vista PCs.

Once that promotion ends and starting Oct. 22, existing XP and Vista customers in the U.S. will buy Home Premium for $120, Professional for $200 and Ultimate for $220. New customers will pay $200 for Home Premium, $300 for Professional and $320 for Ultimate.

In Europe, where Microsoft is trying to comply with European Union regulations, rather than offer two different products and prices for people who are upgrading and new users, it will offer the full product for the lower upgrade price through the end of the year. That means Home Premium will cost €120 (US$167.30), Professional €286 and Ultimate €300.

People there will also have to do a full install rather than an upgrade if they're buying the packaged software. It's a more complicated process, so in some cases retailers and computer makers will help with the task. The full install might help Microsoft avoid running into trouble with regulators who are concerned about the bundling of Internet Explorer in Windows. Microsoft has already said it will ship a special version of Windows 7 in Europe without any browsers.

Unlike some previous Microsoft OS releases, this one will become available globally very quickly. On Oct. 22, all the major computer makers around the world will start selling PCs with Windows 7 in all language versions, said Mike Ybarra, general manager of product management for Windows. In shrink-wrapped-box form, the software will be available in 14 languages on Oct. 22 and the remaining 21 languages on Oct. 31. In the past, Microsoft typically took about three months to get all the languages rolled out worldwide, he said.

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