Microsoft charges UK customers double for Windows 7

European customers will pay up to twice as much for Windows 7 compared to US users, even though the new operating system will ship without a browser in Europe, according to Microsoft.

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European customers will pay up to twice as much for Windows 7 compared to US users, even though the new operating system will ship without a browser in Europe, according to Microsoft.

When the company launches Windows 7 on 22 October, it will price Windows 7 Home Premium, likely the most popular of the three editions available at retail, at €119.99 in the European Union (EU) and charge £79.99 in the UK. Those prices are the equivalent to $168.66 and $132.14., respectively, at Saturday's exchange rates.

US consumers will pay only $119 for the same software after a two-week pre-order sales discount expires 11 July. That means EU residents will pay 41 per cent more, and UK consumers 10 per cent more, than US buyers for Home Premium Upgrade.

Other editions will come with an even higher surcharge. Windows 7 Professional, the key retail edition for businesses, will sport a price tag of €285, or $400.60, and £189.99, or $313.84, at Saturday's exchange rate. In other words, EU customers will pay twice the $199.99 US price; UK buyers will pay 57 per cent more.

The top-end Windows 7 Ultimate, priced at $219.99 in the US, will cost €299 ($420.27), or 91 per cent more, in the EU, and £229.99 ($330.36), or 50 per cent more, in the UK.

Some of the money Microsoft stands to make on the European editions of Windows 7 comes from the weak dollar. Last week, for instance, the dollar fell against the euro the most in a month, hitting $1.41 per euro.

According to Microsoft, it's also not reducing Windows 7's prices from Vista's current marks as much in the EU as it is in the US Windows 7 Home Premium's EU price is down €6, or 4 per cent from the same Vista edition, half the 8 per cent cut that Microsoft made to Home Premium in the US In the UK, Microsoft left prices untouched; Windows 7 will be priced the same as Vista.

Europe's customers will be paying more for less, as Microsoft has decided to yank Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) from Windows 7 in an effort to head off EU antitrust regulators, who may still force the company to take more drastic measures.

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it was dropping IE8 from Windows 7 for customers in the EU, and would ship a browser-less edition, dubbed Windows 7E. Instead, Microsoft said computer makers could decide which browser or browsers to install.

But Windows 7E presents special problems for people who intend to upgrade existing computers from Windows Vista to the new OS. Because Microsoft won't allow EU users to do "in-place" upgrades - which would leave some version of IE on the machine - the company isn't selling "Upgrade" editions. Instead, it's selling the "Full" editions, which are usually more expensive, at "Upgrade" prices. (The prices quoted above, for example, compare US Upgrade editions with EU Full editions, since the latter has been marked down.)

It's unclear whether Microsoft's move will mollify EU officials. Although most analysts saw yanking IE8 as a major concession, EU's antitrust agency hasn't exactly warmed to the idea." Rather than more choice, Microsoft seems to have chosen to provide less," the European Commission said in a statement issued after Microsoft's 11 June announcement.

The EU's preferred solution seems to be a "ballot screen" that users would see the first time they try to connect to the Internet from Windows 7. Such a screen would presumably offer multiple browsers, including IE, Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari and Opera Software's Opera. Microsoft and computer makers dread a ballot screen, analysts have said, because of potential support problems.

Users in the UK, France and Germany will also be able to buy Windows 7 at steep discounts for a limited time starting 15 July, a program mimicking the one kicked off last Friday in the US, Canada and Japan.

The pre-order discounting will trim the price of Windows 7 Home Premium to £49.99 in the UK and €49.99 in France and Germany until 14 August, assuming supplies last. Windows 7 Professional's sales price will be £99.99 in the UK and €109.99 in France and Germany.