I've just upgraded my main notebook computer to Windows 7. The process took four hours, and despites a few minor glitches, was pretty much painless.
So I'm using Win 7 now. It's a little faster and a little prettier than Vista. (Check out PC World's Windows 7 review for the specifics.) But as I explore Microsoft's latest operating system, I find myself wondering why Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade, the main version for consumers, costs $120.
Will home users pay that price? I'm betting they won't. True, some Microsoft diehards will line up on October 22 to grab the first copies of Win 7, but most consumers will spot the price tag and walk away.
As much as I like what Microsoft's done with Windows 7, the improvements don't warrant such a steep fee, particularly for home users upgrading from the much-maligned Vista. And XP users? Well, migrating to Win 7 is a complex chore that requires a clean install. You may have to upgrade your hardware too. Add up the cost of Windows 7, plus more RAM and maybe a new graphics card, and a new PC starts to seem a lot more affordable.
Isn't Software Free?
Consumers have grown accustomed to free apps. So many programs cost nothing these days, including Web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome), security apps (, Microsoft Security Essentials), productivity suites (Google Docs, OpenOffice.org, MS Office 2010 Starter Edition), and photo editors (Google Picasa). I'm not suggesting that home users expect a free operating system too, but that $120 sounds awfully expensive in today's give-it-away software environment.
It's possible that Windows 7 Home Premium's sticker price is an illusion, much like the MSRP of a new car. It's the pseudo price that no savvy consumer would every pay. This doesn't mean that shoppers will be able to haggle with Best Buy clerks -- "I'll turn around and walk out now if you don't throw in a cordless mouse!" -- but that Microsoft will immediately discount Windows 7 to reflect its true value.
In fact, that's already started. Microsoft is offering a steep Windows 7 discount to students, who'll pay just $30 for the Home Premium version through January 3. And the $150 Windows 7 Family Pack, which lets you install Win 7 on up to three PCs, slashes the upgrade price to $50 per computer.
What would you pay for Windows 7?