In an effort to get the whole computing world over to its latest operating system, Microsoft will be charging just $39.99 for current Windows 7 or XP users to upgrade via digital means. Anyone wanting a quaint boxed copy will have to pay $69.99.

Pushing the Crowd

Windows 8 is pretty much a guaranteed success, over the course of its life. From launch, all new PCs will ship with it, millions of enterprises will upgrade over the coming years and users will flock to try the new features. But, Microsoft has a lot more than just the PC market riding on the success of this product. 

It also wants to sell tablets and smartphones running Windows 8 in various forms as well as the whole Windows Marketplace concept. So, to encourage a rapid uptake from day one, the company has set a very aggressive price point of $39.99 for an upgrade from older versions of Windows. Naturally, enterprises will be doing their own deals for higher-spec versions, but for small business and consumers, this makes it more of an impulse buy rather than the $100-$200 upgrades of past generations. 

Playing The Numbers Game

With billions in its bank account, Microsoft can afford to take a monetary hit during the launch phase of Windows 8. What it needs is users by the million to be trying the new OS, exploring Metro and the Marketplace, seeing the opportunities to buy a Windows tablet or phone and running the whole ecosystem. 

It also needs massive success with apps in the marketplace, to encourage more developers to create products for it. So, it needs huge numbers of users early on to be buying those apps, creating the happy cycle of richer developers creating more product for yet more users to buy.

Microsoft has already lined up huge numbers of countries for the Marketplace, and now giving them cheap access via Windows 8 is another step in ensuring the company has a juggernaut hit on its hand, and can send out endless press releases with huge numbers of apps, download and revenue. 

Smart on the Surface

But, the most likely real driving force behind this cheap upgrade policy will be to tempt users with those slinky Surface tablets and upcoming Windows 8 smartphones, The sooner someone is a Windows 8 user, the more likely they are to be open to the possibilities offered by these extra devices. 

Microsoft needs bigger sales of them, and far faster than it needs Windows 8 sales or app downloads. Windows 8 will be the poster-child for these devices and with Apple and Google taking an ever-tightening grip on the market, Microsoft can't waste a single minute in getting Surface and partner devices into people's minds and hands. Microsoft announced the prices in a blog post that also covers the new Upgrade Assistant tool.