Microsoft sets Vista pricing

Microsoft Corp. Tuesday released final pricing for Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC1)and unveiled the details of its sweeping plan to get the operating system into the hands of millions of new testers.

Microsoft’s suggested retail pricing for Windows Vista is as follows: US$399 for Windows Vista Ultimate, $299 for Windows Vista Business, $239 for Windows Vista Home Premium and $199 for Windows Vista Home Basic.

Upgrades to Windows Vista from XP are $259 for Windows Vista Ultimate, $199 for Windows Vista Home Premium and $99 for Windows Vista Home Basic.

The public test of RC1 will involve more than five million users and will dramatically increase the availability of Windows Vista to millions of new users — more than doubling the size of its initial Beta 2 Customer Preview Program (CPP). That program involved 1.5 million users.

RC1, which was made available to a small number of technical beta testers on Friday, will be made available to the 1.5 million CPP participants this week. After the release candidate has been made available to existing CPP participants, the program will be opened to new users. In addition, RC1 will be posted to MSDN and TechNet, where subscribers can download it. Microsoft will also include cover mounts of RC1 on magazines worldwide.

The widespread testing of RC1 is being done to help Microsoft meet a January 2007 deadline for getting Windows Vista into the hands of consumers, and a November 2006 deadline for getting it into the hands of volume license customers. Having millions of new users test the operating system will help Microsoft track down bugs, and ensure that Vista works with as wide a range of hardware as possible. A desktop link in RC1 allows testers to easily send feedback and bug reports to Microsoft.

RC1 will work until May 31, 2007, after which it will time out. Microsoft will issue updates and patches to RC1 until it is released to manufacturing, at which time the operating system is considered finished, and the manufacturing and distribution process will begin. Microsoft has not given a firm date for Vista’s release, but is targeting sometime in January for the OS’s general release. The company plans to release Vista to business customers in November.

The company also will post Windows Vista RC1 to its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet Web sites so subscribers of those programs can download it. The company said that about 5 million users worldwide will have access to RC1 as Windows Vista goes through its final testing.

Shanen Boettcher, general manager of Windows client product management, said the early feedback Microsoft has received on RC1 has been positive. He said Microsoft will determine whether to make a second release candidate available based on tester feedback to RC1.

Windows XP had two release candidates before it was shipped to manufacturing. Analysts have said that if Windows Vista follows the same path, it will be a tight squeeze for Microsoft to get the OS out according to its current schedule.

Windows Vista’s release has been delayed several times, and industry and financial analysts have said they think the release will slip even further into 2007. However, analysts Tuesday said the release of RC1 and Vista’s pricing are positive signs the company could be on track to release the OS on time.

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