Microsoft already managed to surprise a large part of the Windows community by announcing a simplified and cheap upgrade process. Instead of having to juggle around with different versions and their upgrade paths, the company decided to make it easy for everyone. All Windows XP, Vista and 7 users can upgrade for the same price and to the same version. The price? $39.99 for a digital download of Windows 8 Pro, Microsoft's flagship consumer version of the operating system. And while that's a promotional offer, it is almost five times cheaper than the retail price of the Windows 7 Professional upgrade.
On yesterday's Windows Weekly show Microsoft insiders Paul Thurott and Mary Jo Foley revealed that this may not be the only surprise announcement in regards to the upcoming operating system. According to them, Microsoft could also do away with retail media to only offer so called System Builder Kits.
A system builder kit can be acquired if a PC is build at the same time. It offers the same feature set as a retail version, but it available for a fraction of the price. Initially only available to hardware partners, OEM versions have found their way to market places such as Amazon or eBay so that they are practically available to everyone.
Microsoft has not confirmed any of this, and we do not know yet if this is actually going to happen or not. If it happens, it is almost certain that the operating system will be offered at levels that are closer to current generation OEM versions, and not retail products. If you look at Amazon or eBay, you will notice that OEM versions are usually between 50% and 75% cheaper than retail versions.
The big question is if a switch to OEM only versions will be accompanied by a price reduction. Will we see OEM-like prices for retail versions of the Windows 8 operating system? The low upgrade price seems to suggest that Microsoft wants to push Windows 8, and one of the best ways to do that, would be to offer the full version for a lower than expected price as well. And with the new Windows Store revenue stream, it could even turn out to be profitable to Microsoft.
You need to keep in mind that two versions of Windows 8 will be made available for retail channels. Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, with the Pro version more expensive than the standard version.
My guess? The Pro version will be available for less than $100 when the operating system comes out. What's your take on the rumor?
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.