Retailers reveal more Windows 8 prices, take pre-orders

'System Builder' for virtual machines costs $100-$140, same price as Windows 7

Microsoft and several online retailers today revealed more Windows 8 pricing information, and began taking pre-orders for the operating system.

The prices were unveiled in a Microsoft blog post and by several online retailers, including Amazon.com and Newegg.com.

Previously, Microsoft had announced a $39.99 price for the online upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, and said that a boxed copy containing a DVD would run $69.99 during a promotion that will end Jan. 31, 2013.

Today, the company's blog post contained no new information, but Microsoft's e-retailing partners did provide additional details.

According to those retailers, the boxed edition of the Windows 8 Pro upgrade, which has been discounted to $69.99 for now, will jump to $199.99 after the promotion. That's the same price as for a Windows 7 Professional upgrade DVD.

Retailers also unveiled prices for what Microsoft calls the "System Builder" versions, those aimed at small-scale or homebrew PC makers, as well as users who want to run the OS in a virtual machine or in a dual-boot configuration. Formerly, Microsoft applied the term "OEM" to label these.

Newegg's price for Windows 8 System Builder was $99.99 -- available either in 32- or 64-bit -- and $139.99 for Windows 8 Pro, the business-oriented version that comes with corporate features such as full-disk encryption and the ability to connect to company networks.

The prices are identical to ones for OEM editions of Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional.

Unlike other boxed copies, System Builder does not come with support from Microsoft: Instead, the user is responsible for self-support, or if System Builder is used on a made-to-order PC, the shop or individual who assembled the machine is responsible.

Also on the price list: A $69.99 upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro sold at retail with no media, but only a "key card" with an activation code that turns Windows 8 into Windows 8 Pro. Microsoft's dubbed that "Windows 8 Pro Pack;" it's analogous to the in-place upgrades the company touted as "Anytime Upgrades" for Windows 7.

Newegg said the Pro Pack's $69.99 price was a $30 savings over the regular price of $99.99, presumably the upgrade's eventual list price. If so, that's a $10 increase over the Windows 7 Home Premium Anytime Upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, which comes with an $89.99 tag.

Even with these revelations, however, there were still unanswered questions about Windows 8's price, notably that of the entry-level SKU (stock-keeping unit) designated as "Windows 8."

Neither Microsoft nor any of the online retailers had information about the cost of a Windows 8 upgrade -- one used to migrate from XP, Vista or Windows 7 -- as opposed to the already-announced upgrade to Windows 8 Pro.

Also unknown is the price of the Windows 8 Pro online upgrade after Jan. 31, 2013. (Until then, it's $39.99.) If Microsoft sticks with Windows 7 pricing for this SKU, too, the upgrade will climb to $199.99 in February.

Windows 8 goes on sale Friday, Oct. 26.

Microsoft declined to answer questions about the missing prices of Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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