Microsoft Cuts Off its Nose... (updated)

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… to spite its face. This is insane:

Windows 7 will go on sale in the UK, the US and other territories on 22 October. However, unlike previous versions of Windows, there will be no upgrade price option for EU users.

Instead, all EU customers will have to pay for a brand-new licence, regardless of whether they are an existing Windows user. This situation is a result, says Microsoft, of it having to produce an 'e' version of its OS that doesn't come with the Internet Explorer browser preinstalled.

So Microsoft expects us to believe that it is no longer in control of its pricing structure, or that it was utterly incapable - because of the laws of physics - of offering the same upgrade pricing for the “e” version?

Call me cynical, but I don't think that's going to wash with the punters. They will rightly see this as Microsoft throwing a pan-galactic strop, and doing all it can to be as nasty as possible to the European Union – forgetting in its rage that the ones it will most upset are those people formerly known as locked-in users.

Except that nowadays, they aren't so locked in. Improved cross-platform compatibility for apps means that alongside GNU/Linux (admittedly still something of an acquired taste), there's also Apple's hardware, which is becoming increasingly popular on the desktop. Or why not simply stick with XP and forget about Windows 7 *just* like everybody forgot about Windows Vista?

Thanks, Microsoft, you've just made the autumn several hundred per cent more interesting.

Update: It looks like the pricing details quoted above aren't quite right: you *can* buy an upgrade, which is good. What's not so fine, though, is the fact that it appears you can't *do* an upgrade: you have to carry out a clean install, with all that that entails. (I think: as this indicates, I'm still confused about what can and can't be done, and I'm sure I won't be alone. Thanks to Jack Schofield for attempting to guide me through the minefield.) So Microsoft is still being intentionally awkward by removing IE in the first place, and causing all this kerfuffle.

As for alternatives, I'm sure Firefox and Opera would have jumped at the chance to be on a startup menu option for Windows 7, so I don't think there would have been any licensing problems with taking that route. Microsoft choose not to, I would guess, because it really doesn't want people to have the option to choose so easily. Instead, it's come up with a super-inconvenient approach that pays lip service to the EU's requests to do something, while making things worse in practice. It will be interesting to see how the European Commission responds.

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