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And do we detect an attempt at artificial home/business segmentation?

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Prices are out for Windows XP, although it's not currently clear whether they've leaked prematurely, or whether Microsoft is poised to make them official. At time of writing the prices were available on amazon.com, but Microsoft seemed not to have officially announced them.

Search for Windows XP on amazon.com, and you'll get three hits, for WinXP Professional, XP Home Edition, and XP Home Edition Upgrade. If you don't get these at some point in the near future then you'll know Amazon jumped too soon.

Amazon stresses the products won't ship until 25th October, but says it's taking orders now. It quotes prices as follows: XP Home Edition Upgrade, $99.99; Home Edition full product, $199.99; and Professional (presumably full product, this is the only one they list) $299.99.

These prices are pretty much in line with typical current prices for Win2k and Win 98 SE. Prices listed on Egghead today, for example, are $278.99 for Win2k ($188.99 for the upgrade version), and $178.99 for the full version of SE. Egghead doesn't list an upgrade price for SE, and tastefully doesn't mention WinME at all (that's enough comparison shopping - Ed).

Given the small amount of information available, it'd be dangerous to try to read too much into the pricing. We do have prices which apparently closely follow previous products, but the fact that there isn't an upgrade listed for Professional may be significant.

WinXP Pro and Home Edition and damn nearly the same thing, with just a couple of minor, irritating (and pretty clearly deliberate) differences. If it was easy to get an upgrade version of Pro through the channel for about £199.99 (which is likely what it'd have to cost) then there would be blurring between the two versions.

So Microsoft is probably trying to introduce an entirely artificial differentiation between the two 'versions.' One could also speculate that by only selling the full version of Pro at retail, Microsoft is putting further weight behind its efforts to get businesses to buy through its various bulk licensing schemes, which will give you upgrade discounts provided you sign up for the right one at the right time, and buy scads of copies of WinXP Pro the very instant you're able to.

And finally, as 'per copy' product activation will only be implemented on the home variant (business versions will use a single unlock, multi-install procedure), it wants to limit the circulation of more easily piratable code at retail. But they're just small facts, as we said, so that's more than enough speculation for today. ®

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