PC hobbyists will get a big break if new information on Windows 8's pricing structure is correct. The full non-upgrade versions of Windows appear to be gone from retail shelves in Microsoft's next generation operating system, replaced by a much cheaper System Builder version.
Microsoft first began offering System Builder versions with Windows 7, ranging in price from $129 for Home Premium to $229 for Ultimate. These retail prices were often steeply discounted at web retailers. This was a savings compared to the full versions, which ranged from $200 to as much as $320.
Windows System Builder differs from the full version of Windows in how the licensing rights work. With the full version, Microsoft is much more lenient in license transferral, such a when installing a new motherboard. However, with the System Builder version, much like the copies provided with new computers, a Windows installation is limited to a single machine.
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley uncovered additional details about the System Builder version of Windows 8 earlier this week. Her sources say the full versions of Windows 8 will completely disappear (at least at retail), which my colleague Jared Newman speculated about last month.
Pricing appears to be close to what is currently offered for Windows 7: the standard System Builder version will sell for around $100, and the Pro version between $20 and $40 more. Like the pricing for upgrade copies of Windows 8, Microsoft appears apt to sell low in an effort to not only get people to upgrade, but purchase legitimate copies of the operating system.
Piracy was and still is a big problem for Microsoft. With the full versions of Windows, in order to take advantage of transferability, all that was necessary in order to activate a copy on a second computer was to call into Microsoft's activation line and say you had changed a component. This new system would close that loophole.
Upon reaching out to Microsoft, I was unable to confirm any details regarding Windows 8's plans for a cheaper full version of its OS While the confirmed the existence of the System Builder option, a Microsoft spokesperson told PCWorld that the company has "nothing more to share at this time" regarding pricing.