Windows 7 upgrades, Family Pack will come to Europe after all

On September 1, Microsoft announced this morning, it will be making upgrade editions of Windows 7 available to European customers, as originally planned, apparently with Internet Explorer 8 included. These editions will be publicly available on the originally planned global availability date of October 22, although pre-orders will begin September 1.

This leaves a one-week window in which European customers may continue to pre-order full versions of Windows 7 Home Premium at the upgrade price, which is currently €119.99 for most European customers, £79.99 in the UK.
While we do know that €119.99 will be the upgrade price for Home Premium from September 1, and that the full version price will be somewhat higher, we do not know as of yet the specific breakdown for the upgrade prices for the Professional and Ultimate SKUs. These prices did not yet appear on Microsoft's online retail sites in foreign countries, as of 12:15 pm EDT Monday afternoon.

European customers may also expect pre-order availability of a three-license Family Pack version of the Home Premium SKU, though prices there have also not been released. Versions without Windows Media Player, marked with a prominent "N" and a big red box, will also be available for all SKUs in both full and upgrade editions, but for no discount off the regular price.

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Currently, pre-orders for the full edition of the Windows 7 Professional SKU are selling for €285 / £189.99, and the Ultimate SKU for €299 / £199.99. Microsoft's Web site does show the non-UK prices to be limited time discounts, however, which suggests that on September 1 their prices may climb to €309 and €319 (the UK site does not show full pricing as presently discounted).

The summer recess has precluded the European Commission from issuing an opinion on Microsoft's decision three weeks ago to reverse course on offering "Windows 7 E" without Internet Explorer 8 pre-installed. It therefore appears that, for now, the distribution of Windows 7 worldwide will go forward precisely as originally planned.

However, Microsoft is not saying at this time whether Windows 7 SKUs being prepared for October shipment are being pre-equipped with the ability to offer the "ballot screen" -- the ability for customers to select the Web browser of their choice, download it, and install it. Technically, it's possible for Microsoft to deploy a kind of hotfix that's downloaded during the latter stages of the installation process, containing the instructions necessary to bring up the ballot screen -- this way, the company would not need to issue recalls on box shipments that have already been made, or to have OEMs undo Windows 7 installations that are already present on new PCs.

But for Microsoft's proposal to work completely as it has planned, the manufacturers of the alternate browsers listed -- Mozilla, Apple, Google, and Opera Software -- would have to be on board. Specifically, they would need to be able to provide users with destinations for the ballot screen to download and install browsers, in accordance with the Windows 7 installation instructions. Objections already lodged by Opera's and Mozilla's chiefs suggest that at least some would not be on board with this idea; and that even if the EC gives the go-ahead to the browser screen, the Windows 7 installer might not be able to make the necessary handshakes to enable alternative browsers.

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