By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 7:44 pm
Good news! Microsoft is celebrating the first anniversary of Windows 7’s release by bringing back the Windows 7 Family Pack which it briefly offered when the OS shipped. The Family Pack offers three Windows 7 Home Premium upgrades for $149.99, and is an excellent deal considering that one upgrade license sells for $119.99. It goes on sale October 3rd in the US, and as before, it’s available “while supplies last.”
I don’t mean to be churlish about an attractive offer, but I simply still don’t understand why the Family Pack is a once-in-a-while special offer rather than a basic fact of life for Windows users.
With Apple’s OS X, the Family Pack is a version, not a sale. Multiple-user pricing is quite common elsewhere, too (random example: Buying Trend Micro’s Internet Security entitles you to install it on three PCs). Offhand, I don’t know of any other software company that offers family pricing, then takes it away, then brings it back…and warns you that it’ll go away again at some unspecified point.
The Windows 7 Family Pack’s scarcity is purely artificial–supplies are limited because Microsoft makes them so. And it pointlessly confuses buying decisions for Microsoft customers. Were you planning to buy Windows 7 for two or more home PCs? Now you’ve got to decide whether it makes sense to postpone your purchase for a month until the Family Pack is back. And once October comes, you won’t have any idea how long you have until “supplies” of the Family Pack run out again.
As far as I can tell, there’s something deeply rooted in Microsoft’s corporate psyche that leaves it suspicious of simplicity. If it just made Family Pack a permanent addition to the Windows lineup, it would be making a clear statement that it wants to make it easy for folks to make intelligent buying decisions. But here’s the message I take away from the way the company dangles the deal sporadically: It just doesn’t take its most loyal customers quite as seriously as Apple and other major software outfits take theirs.