All in the Family Pack

Well, well, the Web is abuzz today with rumors that Microsoft may finally be prepping a Windows “Family Pack.” Some people preordering Windows 7 might feel gipped. Perhaps they should.Overnight, Kristan Kenny set off quite the ruckus about a possible Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack.

What’s you doing on your day off? Kristan lives in Nova Scotia, and yesterday was Canada Day. I guess he spent his free day mucking around the latest leaked Windows 7 build. He uncovered from the licensing agreement:

Family Pack. If you are a ‘Qualified Family Pack User’, you may install one copy of the software marked as ‘Family Pack’ on three computers in your household for use by people who reside there. Those computers are the ‘licensed computers’ and are subject to these license terms. If you do not know whether you are a Qualified Family Pack User, visit or contact the Microsoft affiliate serving your country.

Whoa. A possible Family Pack would make sense of Microsoft’s pre-order deal for two Windows 7 editions.

The pre-order deal—50 bucks for Windows 7 Home Premium and 100 for Professional—baffled me from the first rumors. What was the real benefit for Microsoft offering the short-term promotion; short being June 26 to July 11. Microsoft doesn’t give much of anything away, at least when it comes to selling Windows.

Last week I tweeted:

Microsoft should have positioned the $50 Windows 7 preorder as a pseudo-family pack. Your family can get two for less than the price of one.

Now, I can see a reason why Microsoft didn’t take such an approach. The regular Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade price is $119.99. Based on pre-order pricing, it’s not inconceivable for Microsoft to offer a Family Pack upgrade for $149.99. Microsoft already offers a three-license version of Office, for the same price.

Ed Bott thinks pricing would be higher. If he’s right, people who pre-ordered Windows 7 Home Premium will have much less to gripe about. Ed writes:

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Microsoft prices the Family Pack at $189, which is $10 less than Apple’s Family Pack (although Apple’s license is good for five Macs in a single household).

Ed is right about current pricing. But Snow Leopard, which releases is September, will be available for $49, as Family Pack, for Leopard users. Earlier Mac OS X users must buy the Mac Box Set, which also comes with iLife `09 and iWork `09. The Leopard Family Pack currently sells for $169 No matter what Microsoft charges, anything more than $49 is lots more than Apple.

Ed pointed out after I posted that Apple will charge $229 for the Snow Leopard Family Pack (with iLife `09 and iWork `09). Apple is rewarding Leopard upgraders, while actually penalizing other Mac customers. They’ll pay more by every measure, whether buying a single license—granted with the other software—for $40 more than Leopard’s $129 price or $30 more than the Family Pack price. Ouch.

Microsoft is long overdue offering a Family Pack, whatever the price. The question everyone should ask: Will the discounted upgrade be available for Windows XP users? Based on past Microsoft licensing practices, the answer would be no. But the company is slowly changing its ways. Marketing is improving, as has Windows product development and management. A Family Pack for all would be refreshing and get the install base to move faster to Microsoft’s newest, safest operating system.