Microsoft pulls Windows 7 Family Pack, so you can spend more for the holidays

I've got a new spelling for "Scrooge." M-i-c-r-o-s-o-f-t. The company has ended the Windows 7 Family Pack promotion, which is a nice Ba Humbug to you and yours for the holidays. Sure, it could be good for Microsoft's bottom line and perhaps partners' PC sales. But for the masses considering upgrading existing Windows XP/Vista PCs to 7, a good thing is suddenly bad.

Maybe Microsoft executives looked at Apple charging so much for Macs and thought, "Why discount Windows 7?" Perhaps, but generally companies offer greater discounts as the holidays approach, not take them away. Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack offered three upgrade licenses for the tidy sum of $149.99. Now the upgrade price is $119.99 per license.

Family Pack was a great idea, one Apple applied to Mac OS X about seven years ago and extended to other products, such as iLife and iWork. Apple charges $49 for the Mac OS X 10.6 (aka Snow Leopard) Family Pack -- for users upgrading from predecessor Leopard. Users of older Mac OS X versions have the option of the five-license Mac Box Set Family Pack, which also includes iLife `09 and iWork `09, for $229.

While Apple made its Family Pack a permanent fixture, Microsoft announced Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack as a limited-time offer, with the emphasis on limited. But I always assumed that limited meant at least through the holidays, especially in context of other multi-license software specials -- Office Home and Student 2007 for $79.99, discounted from $149.99. But Ho, Ho, Ho, Humbug, that promotion is gone, too.

I first learned of Family Pack's demise from Ed Bott, who blogged: "Microsoft's Grinch kills Windows 7 Family Pack." Bott credited Paul Thurrott. Both men are recognized Microsoft software experts. Bott writes: "I haven't heard much about the Grinch lately. Now I know why. He's been hanging out in Redmond, working on marketing plans and drafting statements for the press." It's Scrooge, baby. Perhaps Scrooge Ballmer, although Scrooge Sinofsky has a nice ring to it.

A notice on the Windows 7 Family Pack product page announces: "Thank you for your interest in Windows 7. The Windows 7 Family Pack offer has ended." Offer ended isn't a sell-out, by the way, which is evidenced by the software seemingly disappearing everywhere at once. Microsoft has ubiquitously pulled the software.

Amazon still lists the Family Pack, because some associates offer it new or used -- anywhere from $2 (yeah right) to $259.99, which is still much less than buying three separate licenses for about 120 bucks each. I make the point the offer ended, in anticipation of misleading Microsoft PR claiming the product sold out.

If the Family Pack sold well -- or even better than expected -- Microsoft would have incentive to end the promotion as soon as possible, from a profit-per-license perspective. But there's another way to look at the Family Pack's value and why Scrooge should have kept his stingy little hands off this promotion:

  • If Windows 7 security is so much better, as Microsoft claims, the priority should be to get as many users on the newer software as possible. Family Pack encourages consumers to upgrade more PCs sooner.
  • Apple is sopping up Windows XP PC users, based on Mac sales suggesting that 50 percent of buyers are Windows PC users. Better for Microsoft to get those people onto Windows 7 cheap. If the software is as good as claimed, these end users will be more likely to stick with Windows and make the next computer purchase a Windows PC.
  • Family Pack discourages piracy, plain, pure and simple and meets the real world consumer expectation that one Windows copy should be installable on more than one PC.
  • Consumers using Windows 7 at home will ask for it at work. Microsoft should want to get as many of them on the new OS as quickly as possible. Holiday sales is a rocket ship to adoption, if the price is right.

OK, I've had my Saturday say about Windows 7 Family Pack. Now it's your turn -- in comments, please.

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