You can’t actually buy the long-delayed new operating system from Microsoft, but this week saw Vista prices revealed. First, the Microsoft Canada site posted prices in Canadian dollars earlier this week, then quickly took down the page, but not before Ed Bott of ZDNet could post the information. Bott makes the good point that you cannot simply use currency conversion to arrive at USD prices. Rather, the relative difference in price points from today’s Windows XP prices serves as a better guide.

This methodology proved a bit conservative when Amazon posted prices later in the week, allowing customers to pre-order software DVDs. The high end, “Vista Ultimate” has a price tag of $399, with “Vista Business” at $299. The “Home Premium” edition lists at $239, while “Home Basic” lists for $199. OEMs will receive lower prices. Upgrades are also slightly cheaper.

Microsoft has stretched out the PC OS product offering from 2 products — Home and Professional– to 3, with XP Media Center, and now to 4. In theory, this will give them better value mapping to different segments. However, the mathematical logic that more choices leads to a better fit runs into the psychology of choice– too much is overwhelming, limits purchases, and reduces satisfaction. For consumers buying a new PC, the simplicity of Apple’s pricing, as well as its product, will be appealing. For upgraders, a much larger market, Microsoft must offer a smooth path, and a compelling set of reasons to move to the new software (if your old hardware can handle it). For businesses, the real target for Redmond, the small set of edition choices pales in comparison to the Byzantine complexity of enterprise licensing agreements. In this environment, the two corporate editions may allow Microsoft to scoop some additional revenue out of “Ultimate”, while making “Business” seem cheaper.

Then, of course, are the Server editions. At least there aren’t 33 of them

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