Update: Microsoft sets Vista pricing, expands beta

Redmond gearing up for Vista's release, expands tester base to about 5 million users

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday released the pricing for Windows Vista, about a week after online retailer Amazon.com disclosed the OS's pricing on its Web site.

The company also expanded the tester base of Vista to about 5 million users as it begins gearing up for Windows Vista's widespread release, which is scheduled for early next year.

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 prices are the same as the ones listed on Amazon.com's Web site last week, except the online retailer listed an upgrade for Vista Home Basic as $0.95 more. Amazon.com is already taking pre-orders for Vista, and lists on its Web site that the OS will be available on Jan. 30, 2007. 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.

On Friday Microsoft made available Release Candidate 1 (RC1) of Windows Vista, which means the OS is in its final testing phases. The release was initially made available only to about 15,000 users who are in Microsoft's TechBeta and Technology Adoption Program (TAP) program, but on Tuesday the company expanded that release to members of the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program. 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.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.