With the release of Windows 8 approaching, Microsoft is making a bid for the attention of existing Windows users by streamlining and lowering the cost of upgrading.

PCs running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro via online download for $39.99, with an option to add the Windows Media Center living room interface for free. A packaged DVD version will be available in stores for $69.99. Both promotions run through Jan. 31, 2013.

The company announced the plan yesterday along with a simplified process for downloading and installing the new operating system. (Microsoft hasn’t yet announced a release date for Windows 8.)

Will it work? One commenter wrote on the Microsoft blog post, “At that price, I don’t see how I can’t buy a copy. I was expecting to shell out $200 for Windows 8 Pro. This should certainly increase adoption from previous versions of Windows.”

Others aren’t so sure. “We think there will be little interest in moving existing PCs to Windows 8, with most interest likely in buying new touch enabled hardware to take full advantage of the new touch interface,” wrote Wall Street analyst Rick Sherlund of Nomura Research in a report about the upgrade terms. He isn’t changing his financial models for the company as a result of the new details.

My take: The upgrade offer could be interesting to people running Windows XP on older computers. I’ve been testing Windows 8 on an old IBM (yes, IBM) ThinkPad with 1GB of RAM. The machine was originally designed to run Windows XP, but thanks to Microsoft’s ongoing improvements, I’ve noticed a significant boost in responsiveness and boot time with Windows 8.

Windows 8 could be a tougher sell for people running Windows 7, where the performance improvements aren’t as significant. The keyboard-and-mouse experience with Windows 8 will require an adjustment. Windows 8’s tile-based “Metro” interface is best on touch-enabled tablets. Particularly if they’re running Windows 7 machines that aren’t touch-enabled, my hunch is that most users won’t see the upgrade as worthwhile.

Now that the upgrade process and price are clear, what’s your plan? Vote in our poll below.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140040897 Robert Schiele

    I wouldn’t “upgrade” to the monstrosity they call “Metro” even if they were giving the OS away free of charge.

  • Guest

    Yes. We believe that $40 is a very attractive price for all the new features in Windows 8. As amazing as it is that people are still using the 11-year-old Windows XP, we think Windows 8’s features and price are even more compelling.

  • http://frugalmechanic.com/ Eric Peters

    I love how they’re still twice as expensive as an OSX upgrade @ $20

    • http://twitter.com/ggier Georgia Gier

      I do think the cheaper upgrade price is their attempt to compete with Apple, even if it’s not quite that low.

      • guest


    • guest

      Last time I checked you can’t legally run OSX on a

    • http://www.facebook.com/simon.chesneyhawkes Simon James Clements-Hawes

      Not really – if I were to upgrade from XP to 8 then that’s $40 to go from XP, through Vista and 7 to 8; the same of MacOS would be Leopard to Mountain Lion – meaning an upgrade fee from Leopard > Snow Leopard > Lion > Mountain Lion. At your $20 a pop, that’s $60. Prices aren’t quite as low here in the UK – I guess we’ll be looking at £40-£50 for the Windows upgrade (at best) but the Apple equivalents are £25-£35 each (meaning a possible £85 for the same jump on Apple). This is a solid move from MS IMO.

      • http://frugalmechanic.com/ Eric Peters

        Not true, you can go from Snow Leopard to Mountain Lion directly, don’t need to pay for Lion: http://www.apple.com/osx/how-to-upgrade/

        I’ve skipped a couple OSX upgrades before, and just paid $20 for the latest, ignoring the intermittent releases. Plus the “Upgrade” CDS always let you do a full clean install without having to do a previous installation first, something that always annoyed me about microsoft “Upgrades”

        • guest

          You can do clean installs even from Windows “upgrade” disks. It’s just not officially sanctioned.

    • Guest

      True, although Apple releases $20 updates twice as often.

      • http://frugalmechanic.com/ Eric Peters

        And that’s a bad thing? :) Ship baby ship!

        • Guest

          Of course not! More innovation is to be celebrated.

        • guest

          Charging for what in many cases are service packs? Yes.

  • Guest

    Call me old fashioned but doing an OS upgrade on antique hardware with no physical media seems like a support problem waiting to happen.

    Yeah, I haven’t tried the Mac OS upgrade that way either. That scares me too.

    • http://frugalmechanic.com/ Eric Peters

      I recently bought a copy of VMWare Fusion 4, they included it on a Flash Drive in the box!

      • guest

        And charged you more than $40 for something that does less. Plus VMware isn’t dealing with a 50% global piracy problem. Digital downloads are cheaper to fulfill, avoid having millions of physical media out there which can potentially fall into the wrong hands and be abused, and are convenient for the customer.

    • guest

      Putting anything, including W8, on “antique hardware” isn’t a recipe for success. And you can create your own media as part of the download install process, or else pay more and get official media shipped out.

  • guest

    As a (very happy) Win7 user (across home and office), the fear is that it could be a Vista repeat. I foolishly upgraded XP to Vista and regretted it every day I used it.

    I won’t beta test it. I won’t be first in line. I’ll wait to see what problems are triggered and if they are fixed. Will that happen within the cheap-o upgrade time frame? That’s the only issue I’m assessing.

    • guest

      I don’t think there’s any reason to think it will be like Vista, which was unique for several reasons. But if you’re trying to take advantage of the upgrade deal, you can alway buy it to lock in the price and install it later, once you’re satisfied it’s solid.

  • GeekWire Fan

    I plan to install Windows 8 via Parallels as a virtual machine running on my Mac Mini and Macbook Air – mainly to keep up with features and to have it available if and when needed. But as a primary machine, Windows 8 is only useful if the device it’s running on has a touch screen. Most people will only justify getting a new Windows 8 touch screen tablet or computer if in the future there are actually useful applications in the Metro style app store. Most Windows desktop apps are far better than their Metro style counterpart if ported, as the primary benefit to Metro style is using a touch screen device. It’s fairly easy to predict that Windows 7 will be the be the OS that is installed and used the most through the rest of this decade (just as Windows XP dominated for a full 10 years). Many who get a Windows 8 machine with no touch screen will want to downgrade (or could be considered upgrade) to Windows 7 to avoid the forced Metro style start/launch screen. It’s pretty clear that “most” users don’t prefer the Metro style interface. Zune never passed 4% music player marketshare and Windows Phone 7.x has yet to pass 4% smartphone marketshare. There is very little demand or anticipation for Windows 8 among consumers and businesses/enterprise. In fact, the group most enthused about Windows 8 are the tech journalists who cover it in blogs and articles.

    • guest

      You gotta love subjective opinion presented as fact.

  • Dennis E. Hamilton

    I am interested in Windows 8 in two places – on Surface and equivalents, and on my Tablet PC running Windows XP SP3. The latter didn’t upgrade to Vista very well and the install of Windows 7 RC was awful because of video degradation. At the upgrade price, I’m willing to try Windows 8 Pro on the Tablet PC just to see if I can get more life out of the device that way.

  • GnomeMax

    Microsoft has never made an upgrade process that successfully cleans out the tailings of the previous OS – that’s why industry always reimages. Unsuspecting users who pay for Win8 with Metro will not be happy on old hardware. All in all, this is just Windows with a new GUI, not a new Windows, and a full AV solution is required for protection (wonder how that AV solution will drag down old hardware and low – to – mid range tablets?)

  • steve

    “I can paint your caahhhrr for thirdy nine nidy five!”

  • guest

    Nothing in W8 that i’m not already getting on w7. Since I’f a desktop user (in a VM) all the UI and touch stuff buys me nothing. Pass.

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