By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 9:57 am
Robert X. Cringely–the one who doesn’t write for InfoWorld anymore, not the one who still does–has a post up called “Why Windows 7 Costs So Much.” The piece is not without its obvious flaws–most notably, he keeps saying Apple’s Snow Leopard is $49, when it’s really $29–but it proposes an interesting theory: that Microsoft intentionally prices Windows so high that upgrading an existing PC looks like a bad deal compared to buying a new one. (Even if Microsoft makes less money on a copy of Windows that’s preinstalled on a PC, sales to manufacturers are ultimately far more important to its bottom line than sales of shrinkwrapped copies of the OS.)
I have my doubts about Cringely’s analysis, which is in the tradition of his too-clever-by-half perspective on all sorts of topics. (Remind me again–has Apple bought Adobe yet?) As one of his commenters says, Microsoft presumably charges what it does for Windows because it’s a software company. (Apple, unlike Microsoft, gets to keep the profit from the whole computer–and it sells only highly profitable computers.) Also, Microsoft has repeatedly cut some Windows prices in recent years–a Windows Vista Home Premium upgrade started at $160 and was reduced to $130, and has now been replaced by the $120 Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade.
Oh, and there’s also the fact that when you factor in inflation, Windows costs less than it did a quarter century ago:
Cringely doesn’t mention the one version of Windows 7 that does seem like it might be intentionally priced out of reach of most folks: Ultimate Edition, which sells for $320 in its full version and which Microsoft keeps explaining probably isn’t for you:
And certainly there is also a small set of customers who want everything Windows 7 has to offer. So we will continue to have Windows 7 Ultimate edition to meet that specialized need. Windows 7 Ultimate edition is designed for PC enthusiasts who “want it all” and customers who want the security features such as BitLocker found in Windows 7 Enterprise edition.
Anyhow, Windows users, what’s your take? Does Windows 7 seem expensive, cheap, or more or less priced as it should be? Here’s a refresher on the prices of the various versions.