Will a $40 upgrade price get Windows 8 to take off?

windows-8-logoToday, our old friend Brandon LeBlanc took to the Windows Team blog to announce pricing for upgrade versions of Windows 8, and while they’re not quite in the free or $29 upgrade class of an Apple upgrade, they’re quite cheap for Microsoft: $39 to upgrade your existing installation of Windows XP, Vista, or 7 (In comparison, an upgrade copy of Windows 7 Home Premium is available now in the US on Amazon for $98).  Brandon writes:

Starting at general availability, if your PC is running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 you will qualify to download an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $39.99 in 131 markets. And if you want, you can add Windows Media Center for free through the “add features” option within Windows 8 Pro after your upgrade.

Now, your PC will have to run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, and we can imagine that some old warhorse XP installations may have trouble getting the proper drivers, but Microsoft seems to have listened to the feedback and tried to make it as easy as possible to get a bunch of people on Windows 8 early.  Some highlights of what we know so far:

  • For $39, you can upgrade your XP, Vista, or Windows 7 machine via download
  • Available in 131 countries
  • The upgrade is for Windows 8 Pro, and you can choose to install Windows Media Center for free
  • A “shrinkwrap” copy of Windows 8 Pro upgrade will also be available, for $69
  • Earlier, Microsoft announced that new Windows 7 computers sold after June 2 will be eligible for a $14.99 upgrade, once Windows 8 ships
  • Both offers will end January 31, 2013
  • A “System Builder” copy will also be available for installing a fresh copy on, say, a new home-built computer (no price was given for this option)

While this aggressive pricing may be surprising when you look at the cost of previous Windows upgrades, Microsoft needs to get Windows 8 in as many hands as possible, as early as possible, to ensure the success not only of Windows 8 but of the Windows 8 App Marketplace.  As much as it would like to, Microsoft can’t lean on Windows Phone to drive sales, and while the newly announced Microsoft Surface looks interesting, it’s going to depend a lot on price, too.

Microsoft has already said that only a very few users bother with Media Center, so the “free” inclusion in this offer is more a play to get out of paying license fees for those that will never touch Media Center, rather than an incentive to move to Windows 8.  And one of the prime drivers for the Apple ecosystem, proprietary content (read: your iTunes purchases) has never been duplicated by Microsoft, as many times as they’ve tried: with MSN Music, Zune, and even now with the vaporware that, so far, at least,  is Xbox Music.

We’re still waiting on a “killer” Windows 8 app (or a suite of them), too.  So far what we’ve seen are not-as-good versions of what’s already available on Windows 7, and while we’re sure we’re going to be seeing a whole slew of tablet sized fart apps, Windows 8 is going to need something big to prove the worth of this new OS.

So with no phone, content, or killer apps to drive Windows 8 sales, Microsoft needs to go cheap, and hope it comes out ok in the end.  If it all works, and we end up with a Marketplace full of apps, an Xbox full of tunes and video, and a phone and a Surface and a desktop all running Windows 8, Microsoft will have hit that big bet they’ve been making.  If not?  Well that’s why we’re here, either way it will be fun to find out!

Is $39 the right price point for Windows 8?  Is it cheap enough that people will take a flyer on an unproven system with no killer apps?  Will it drive sales of Surface, and Windows Phone?  Will sales of the Surface, and a new set of Windows Phones, drive sales and adoption of Windows 8?  Microsoft certainly hopes so, what do you think?