Microsoft Extends Windows 7 Family Pack to Europe

Microsoft on Monday stepped up plans to push Windows 7 upgrades to European users. The company said its decision to keep Internet Explorer 8 in the OS in Europe has enabled it to make a family-pack option available to customers there in October.

In a post on the Windows 7 blog, Windows Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc said that the Windows 7 Family Pack, a version of the OS for households with multiple PCs, will be available in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden on Oct. 22 when Windows 7 is made generally available worldwide. Microsoft previously said the software would only be available in the U.S. and Canada.

The Family Pack allows users to install Windows 7 Home Premium for a reduced price on up to three PCs in a household that already has a version of Windows installed. Like the U.S. offer, the European offer is for a limited time. The company did not assign the offer a deadline but said it is only while supplies last.

Microsoft is able to offer Windows 7 Family Pack in Europe because it reversed a decision to pull IE 8 out of the OS there. Instead, it will offer Windows 7 with IE pre-installed and a ballot-screen option so users can install a competitive browser, LeBlanc said. This allows Microsoft to have a version of Windows 7 that users in Europe can upgrade to in October, he said.

Previously, Microsoft had said it would offer a Windows 7 E version of the OS without IE 8 as a remedy stemming from the European Commission's antitrust suit against the company. Windows 7 E was not going to have a browser, so a user would have to do a clean install of the new OS rather than upgrade from a previous version of Windows. Now that IE will be provided in the European Union, upgrades are possible again without the clean install.

Microsoft changed its mind on July 24 about pulling IE 8 out of Windows 7 and said it would offer the ballot screen option that E.U. authorities proposed.

The availability of a full version of Windows 7 in Europe also means users there will have access to Windows 7 retail boxes in full and upgrade versions for pre-order starting Sept. 1 and to buy on Oct. 22. However, Microsoft will continue to make Windows 7 N versions available in Europe. That version does not include Windows Media Player and is the result of another European antitrust suit over the inclusion of that software in Windows.

Customers who have already pre-ordered the full version of Windows 7 E in the E.U. will now receive full versions of Windows 7 with IE8 included, the company said.

Microsoft also on Monday unveiled a limited-time discounted upgrade for Windows users in the U.K. People who purchase Windows 7 Home Premium between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31 can upgrade for £79.99 (US$131) rather than the standard pricing of £99.99. The regular upgrade pricing will go back into effect Jan. 1, 2010.

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