Microsoft hits Europe with high upgrade prices

EU buyers will be paying as much as 163 percent more for some Microsoft’s Anytime Upgrades, according to an analysis by Computerworld.

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EU buyers will be paying as much as 163 percent more for some Microsoft’s Anytime Upgrades, according to an analysis by Computerworld.

In late June, Bill Veghte, senior VP for the Windows business group, rejected claims by a British financial newspaper that European consumers would pay more for Windows 7 because of a move it made -- since retracted -- to dump Internet Explorer (IE) from the new OS.

Follow-up messages from Microsoft's public relations firm at the time took exception to a Computerworld story that concluded Europeans would pay up to twice as much as US customers for packaged copies of Windows 7, calling its headline "inaccurate".

But prices of the recently-announced Anytime Upgrades are even more expensive for European Union (EU) customers.

Anytime Upgrades let users move up the Windows 7 edition stack by buying, say, an upgrade from Starter, the version slated for the very cheapest netbooks, to Home Premium simply by purchasing a product key to "unlock" the more expensive edition's features.

Anytime Upgrades will be available starting 22 October, the Windows 7 debut date.

Microsoft has pitched the Anytime Upgrades to Wall Street as one way it hopes to boost Windows revenue, and has been most aggressive in touting them for netbook owners, who may want to move up to Home Premium.

"A customer may purchase a netbook thinking they would primarily use it for e-mail," a Microsoft spokesman said last week. "Over time, they find they are using that netbook as their primary every-day PC. That person then decides they want their netbook to do more."

According to Microsoft's price list, UK customers will pay up to 104 percent more for an Anytime Upgrade, depending on the upgrade chosen. A Starter to Home Premium Anytime Upgrade, for example, is priced 34 percent higher in the UK, when British pounds are converted to dollars at the current exchange rate.

US prices include sales tax -- the average combined sales tax burden in the US was 8.6 percent in 2008 -- for a better comparison with Europe's Value Added Tax, or VAT. That consumption tax is included in Microsoft's UK and EU prices.

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