Why Microsoft Should Give $30 Student Deal to Everyone

Microsoft today announced a Windows 7 discount for college and university students -- and the deal's a doozy. In the U.S., for instance, students will pay just $30 for Win 7 Home Premium Upgrade if they order by January 3, 2010. The regular upgrade price is $120.

Which led me to thinking: Why not extend the upgrade deal to all consumers? Here's what Microsoft could gain from such a move:

Better sales of Windows 7:
Numerous pundits have opined that Win 7 is overpriced, a marketing blunder that will discourage home-user upgrades. If you're running Vista on a home PC, you'd really have to loathe your operating system to shell out $120 for Windows 7. I suspect that most consumers won't bother. As usual, they'll wait until they buy a new PC before upgrading to the newest version of Windows.

Consumer goodwill: Microsoft screwed up badly with Vista, which has been reviled for its sluggish performance and nagging security messages. With Windows 7 Upgrade, you're paying to fix Redmond's blunders. Microsoft should make that fee as painless as possible. While the company's short-term profits might suffer, the positive buzz generated by a low-cost upgrade would help in the long run. Why not show customers a little love? Good PR could go a long way.

Lowered expectations: Windows 7's main selling points are that it's faster and less annoying, security-wise. True, there are some nifty interface improvements, but nothing revolutionary to make the OS a must-have upgrade, particularly at $120. A limited-time $30 deal is far more tempting.

Keeping up with Apple: The Mac folks are charging just $29 for Snow Leopard, the latest flavor of OS X. And according to market research from NPD Group, Snow Leopard sales are far exceeding those of Apple's last two operating systems. A $30 deal for Windows 7 Home Premium might very well have a similar effect on Windows sales, and give Microsoft something to crow about in its next batch of TV ads.

But $120? That's too much for Home Premium Upgrade, and consumers know it. Does Microsoft?

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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