Report: Microsoft to reveal Windows 7 prices in June

Higher? Lower? Analyst says recession puts Microsoft on pricing hot seat

Microsoft will unveil pricing for Windows 7 in a few weeks, a Web site that has accurately predicted past company moves said today.

TechARP.com, a Malaysian Web site that correctly named the ship date of Internet Explorer 8 earlier this year and leaked details of an upcoming free Windows 7 upgrade program for users who buy Vista PCs after July 1, said that Microsoft will publicly announce prices for Windows 7 in mid-June.

Although Microsoft has detailed the Windows 7 versions it will ship later this year, it has not set prices or a launch date for Vista's successor.

A report last week by CNET cited a Dell product director as saying that the average price of Windows 7 would be higher than Vista, but did not go into specifics.

"In tough economic times, I think it's naive to believe that you can increase your prices on average and then still see a stronger swell than if you held prices flat or even lowered them," Darrel Ward, director of product management for Dell's business client product group, told CNET. "I can tell you that the licensing tiers at retail are more expensive than they were for Vista."

According to TechARP, Microsoft set Windows 7 pricing for computer makers such as Dell several weeks ago. By now, Microsoft has also informed major retailers of the Windows 7 prices.

One analyst didn't have any idea what Microsoft will charge for Windows 7, but was sure of one thing: Continuing economic problems put a very big monkey wrench in Microsoft's plans.

"It's such a strange time that it's hard to even speculate on prices," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "Everything has such a different feel to it because of the economic climate."

In a way, Cherry said, he feels sorry for Microsoft. "Unfortunately, just when they've finally gotten a good Window product, a lot of consumers and businesses are sitting on their wallets," he said.

What Microsoft may face, Cherry said, is apathy, no matter how many of the problems posed by Vista are solved by Windows 7.

"When companies finish their evaluation of Windows 7, and decide that it's technically feasible, then it has to go into the hopper with all the rest of the IT projects, where it has to be balanced against all the things that IT has to do."

During tough times, when IT is being asked to do more with less, and consumers are holding on to their money, Cherry thinks it's likely that a new operating system, especially one like Windows 7 that is essentially a stability and performance upgrade from Vista, will get shoved down, or even off, buyers' to-do lists.

TechARP also claimed that Microsoft will be taking stock today with its biggest PC partners to find out whether they're ready for the public launch of Windows 7.

"It is expected that Microsoft will finalize [its] launch plans after these discussions," the site said.

While Microsoft has only said that it will have Windows 7 ready in time for the 2009 holiday selling season, comparisons with launches of Windows XP and Vista put public availability at somewhere between October 11 and Nov. 4.

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Gregg Keizer

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