The reception to Windows 7 beta and the subsequent Release Candidate has been exceptional, but with pricing horror stories floating around the web in recent weeks will Microsoft fall at the final hurdle?
The answer thankfully is no. The revelation last week that a Windows 7 E (for Europe) edition stripped of Internet Explorer 8 - to abide by EC anticompetitive laws - does make things a little complicated but there are certainly some bargains to be had.
The news breaks down into four key points:
1. Guarantee. Beginning tomorrow (26 June) is the Upgrade option programme 'Tech Guarantee' . This means all customers who buy a new PC from accredited Microsoft dealers will be entitled to a free upgrade to Windows 7 come its launch on 22 October. The offer works like for like so Vista Home Premium, Business and Ultimate owners will get Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional (the new name for 'Business') or Ultimate respectively. The only potential cost involved will be the shipping of the CD while a maximum of 25 PCs per customer/business is allowed. The offer will run until January 2010 and can be redeemed until February 2010. A website detailing this will go live at microsoft.com/uk/upgradeoffer tomorrow.
2. Release. Windows 7 will launch in 14 languages on 22 October with the remaining 31 languages the OS ships in available from 31 October. This will be the fastest global Microsoft product launch to date.
3 Pricing. Windows 7 E Home Premium will retail for £149.99 (Vista Home Premium costs £169.99), while Pro and Ultimate stick to their Vista equivalents at £219.99 and £229.99 respectively. Where it gets complicated is because no upgrade editions of Windows 7 E will be sold in Europe. Microsoft says this is because it would port across Internet Explorer from the previous OS and put it on shaky ground with the European Commission. Frustrating yes, necessary? Let's not even go there. More importantly however Microsoft aims to counter this by selling the full edition of Windows 7 E Home Premium for £79.99 between 22 October and 31 December. This is the same cost as the upgrade edition of Vista Home Premium. It is still working on potential deals for Professional and Ultimate.
4 Promotion. Perhaps most exciting however is Microsoft will reward early adopters who pre-order Windows 7 E Home Premium or Professional between 15 July and 14 August by selling them for just £49.99 and £79.99 respectively. No details of stock level have been locked down yet with Microsoft saying it will respond to demand, but this certainly represents good value for money. Again more details come tomorrow at microsoft.com/uk/win7preorder.
"We are humbled and enthusiastic about where we are with Windows 7," said Windows UK product lead John Curran in an interview with me today. "Everyone is delighted with this product and we're excited to get it out and into consumer hands."
Downsides? Curran confirmed to me that existing Vista Ultimate users will not be made offers to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate, despite it having proved a largely underwhelming edition. Meanwhile Microsoft reiterated there will be no path for Release Candidate testers to upgrade to the full edition. Given that no Windows 7 upgrade SKUs will be available in Europe this would have been ruled out anyway.
So yes there are some disappointments here and I maintain to this day that simply stripping IE8 from Windows 7 was not the best course of action (my suggestions) while the elimination of upgrade SKUs in Europe altogether seems extreme. That said, the prices are competitive, the lengthy four month Tech Guarantee is generous and those early upgrade/pre-order options could prove the tipping point for many.
Let's all now breathe a sigh of relief...