Microsoft is reintroducing the Windows 7 Family Pack, an offer it discontinued last year.
Those with PCs running Windows Vista or Windows XP, and capable of running Windows 7, qualify for the program, which includes three upgrade licenses of Windows 7 Home Premium for $149.99. Microsoft will start selling Windows 7 Family Pack through retailers and its online Microsoft Store starting Oct. 3, with an international rollout scheduled for around Oct. 22.
The move is not unexpected, given the original offer's popularity. In December 2009, however, Microsoft began removing Windows 7 Family Pack from online storefronts such as Amazon.com, making good on its original "limited time offer" promise.
That led to the inevitable groundswell of protest from potential purchasers, who filled message boards with borderline anger and incredulity.
"This is the simplest thing for Microsoft to implement-licensing that makes sense for end users," one commenter wrote on the Windows IT Pro blog at the time. "Microsoft-Fix this! Family packs just make sense for about a million reasons and are common sense."
Within days of Microsoft pulling the offer, copies of Windows 7 Family Pack began appearing on reseller sites, which seemed more than happy to charge inflated prices. Meanwhile, a family wanting to install Windows 7 Home Premium on three PCs would have had to pay $357 for three separate copies of the upgrade version-a cost markup of $208 over the Family Pack.
The Family Pack and other discounts likely contributed to Microsoft's goal of robust Windows 7 sales, which in turn helped reverse the company's downward revenue trend during the worst of the global recession. Microsoft claims more than 175 million licenses have been sold to date.
But Microsoft executives have noted on previous occasions that overall sales of Windows 7 are closely tied to shipments of new PCs. Microsoft may have seen a reintroduction of the Family Pack as a way to bolster demand at a time of weak consumer confidence and signs of renewed economic distress, which in turn could curb the appetite for new hardware and software.
Microsoft has attempted to goad business spending on Windows 7 through similar deals, including its Windows 7 Enterprise Trial program. Business spending on Microsoft products lagged during the first part of 2010, as many enterprises and SMBs seemed reluctant to invest in IT infrastructure. The strong sales numbers for Windows 7 initially came from the consumer side.