Microsoft will release a Family Pack version of its upcoming Windows 7, which allows an end-user to install the new operating system on three PCs, in Europe. It will also offer Windows 7 upgrade editions in the region.
Originally, the Family Pack option was available only in the United States and Canada. Now, Microsoft says, both the Family Pack and upgrade editions of Windows 7 will be available in the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden. Amazon.com's UK site posted that the Family Pack, of which Microsoft plans to sell "limited quantities," was available for 150 pounds, or roughly $246.
The offerings come after Microsoft's decision to market its original version of Windows 7 in Europe, something that seemed in doubt for much of 2009.
With European antitrust regulators arguing that the inclusion of Internet Explorer 8 within Windows 7 constituted a potential monopoly violation, Microsoft originally planned to ship a Europe-only version of the operating system, named Windows 7 E, lacking the browser. European manufacturers would have had the option of pre-installing Internet Explorer 8 onto their machines before shipment.
However, Microsoft then reversed its decision on Aug. 10, announcing that it would roll out the same version of Windows 7 to Europe as the rest of the world. The nod to EU antitrust regulations would come in the form of a "ballot screen" that would allow users installing the operating system to choose an alternative Web browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Users would have the ability to click a "Tell me more" option beneath each browser icon in order to glean more information.
That "ballot screen" initiative opened the door for Microsoft to push both the Windows 7 Family Pack and upgrades in Europe, according to a company spokesperson.
"Windows 7 retail boxes will be available in both Full and Upgrade versions via pre-orders through Microsoft online stores where available and our retail partners starting September 1st and at General Availability on Oct. 22," Brandon LeBlanc, a Windows communications manager at Microsoft, added in an Aug. 24 blog posting. "We will, however, continue to make Windows 7 N versions available that does not include Windows Media Player."
Those Europeans who ordered copies of Windows 7 E in the EU will receive the full versions of Windows 7 that include Internet Explorer 8.
Microsoft's decision to release the full version of Windows 7, though, was also taken before the completion of the European antitrust commission's review, meaning the ballot-screen proposal could still potentially be rejected. In that case, Microsoft would have to consider reintroducing Windows 7 E in Europe, a step that would likely irritate manufacturers and Microsoft's partners.
Microsoft has been moving with all due to speed to settle its European antitrust issues before EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes steps down at the end of 2009. In addition to the debate over the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows, Microsoft is also dealing with European antitrust regulators over the ability of Microsoft Word and Excel to interact with other applications.