Microsoft announced the pricing and packaging of the upcoming Windows 8.1 operating system today. According to the announcement, Windows 8.1 will be available for $119.99, and Windows 8.1 Pro for $199.99 both as a download and retail.
Users can still convert from the regular version to Pro for $99.99, and purchase the Media Center upgrade for $9.99 provided that they are Pro users.
To clarify, upgrades from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 are free.
Interesting from a system builder perspective is the fact that Microsoft will make available full retail copies of the operating system again, something that it did not make available when it released Windows 8 in October 2012.
While customers had options to purchase so called system builder editions, these versions were not that easy to find online and Microsoft seems to have put most efforts into pushing out the upgrades instead.
This is good news for users who want to run the operating system in a virtual environment, install it on a PC that they have build from scratch, or install it on a second hard drive partition.
What about upgrades from previous operating systems? Windows 7 users can upgrade to Windows 8.1 using retail DVDs or downloads. They won't be able to keep their programs though, but files will remain available.
The company notes that Windows 8.1 has not been designed for installations on devices running Windows XP or Vista. Microsoft recommends that users buy the retail DVD of Windows 8.1 and do a clean install of the operating system. That's not a confirmation that direct upgrades won't work though, and it remains to be seen if this is indeed the case or if there are workarounds that allow you to upgrade directly from XP or Vista to Windows 8.1
Users of older Windows operating systems have another option. They can get Windows 8 instead, upgrade their operating systems to it, and then use the in-store upgrade to upgrade to Windows 8.1.
I welcome the return of retail versions of Windows 8.1. While it is certainly true that most users either bought a PC running Windows 8 right away or bought an upgrade to it because they had access to an older version of Windows, the lack of a retail copy limited a subset of the user base.
Considering that XP and Vista users are more likely to upgrade, it is not really clear why Microsoft did not put more effort into improving the upgrade experience for users of those operating systems.
Now read: The major changes in Windows 8.1Advertisement
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