12:26 PM

Microsoft Sets Vista Prices

Pricing will start at $99.95 for existing users upgrading to the Home Basic version and top off at $399 for new licenses for Windows Vista Ultimate.

Microsoft on Tuesday made it official: the retail prices for Windows Vista that leaked last week are, in fact, what the Redmond, Wash. developer will charge for its next operating system.

As part of a larger announcement of Windows Vista Release Candidate 1's (RC1) broader availability this month, Microsoft spelled out the upgrade and full version prices for four retail editions:

-- Windows Vista Home Basic: $99.95 (upgrade), $199 (full version)

-- Windows Vista Home Premium: $159/$239

-- Windows Vista Business: $199/$299

-- Windows Vista Ultimate: $259/$399

In an e-mail to TechWeb, a company spokesperson said that "Microsoft is committed to keeping prices low for customers. Windows Vista editions will be offered at the same prices as comparable Windows XP prices."

But when Amazon posted the Vista prices last week, at least one analyst took exception with Microsoft's claim that Vista is priced the same as its predecessor.

"It depends a lot on how you want to look at it," said JupiterResearch's Joe Wilcox last week.

Microsoft's positioning Home Basic as "pretty basic" in functionality, Wilcox explained, but is charging the same as Windows XP Home. "So you could argue that it's a price increase across the board." Also on Tuesday, Microsoft repeated its earlier promise to make RC1 available through the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program (CCP), where the OS's Beta 2 was posted in June for public downloading. It also said that users who had not previously obtained Beta 2 would be able to download RC1. The company's goal is to get RC1 into the hands of more than 5 million Windows customers.

RC1 will be posted to the CCP site this week, Microsoft said.

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