Microsoft, why is it so difficult to buy Windows in India?

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Today we published a piece on how to assemble a fantastic Rs.35,000 desktop computer for home use. It is a very good and powerful computer but there is something misleading about the price. The price is actually more because it doesn’t include the price of Windows. We didn’t list that because we left it up to user to decide which version of Windows (or Linux) would fit his or her computer.

But we did play around with the idea of including Windows in the list and took a look at some options on the Microsoft India store. The takeaway from that, however, was that for average computer users there is no good way to buy Windows. It just doesn’t exist. It is as if the world’s biggest software company just doesn’t want people to buy one of its most important software products.

The saddest bit is that it wasn’t like this earlier. I bought Windows 7 Professional and a copy of Windows XP (I got it for cheap) in 2009 at prices that were not unreasonable for products that totally justified their price tags. In fact until two years ago Microsoft sold Windows 7 Home Premium for something around Rs.5,500, which again was a very reasonable price for a solid product. (Well, now that I remember, I also bought Windows 8 during the $35 promotion or something but the OS is such a mess that I don’t use it.)

But now Windows buyers just don’t have any decent way to buy Windows.

If you go to the Microsoft India Store, you have following options:

— Buy the full fat Windows 8.1 Pro for Rs.18,999

— Buy the non Pro version (good enough for home use) for Rs.10,999

— Upgrade from Windows 8 or Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 after paying Rs.10,999. Actually, upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 is free. But if you are upgrading from Windows 7, it costs money, which incidentally is the same that you will spend if you don’t have Windows 7. I wonder why Microsoft calls it an upgrade when the price is same.

— Upgrade from Windows 8 or Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 Pro for Rs.18,999. Here too, you don’t get any discount for owning the earlier OS. The price for upgrade and the price of the new product is same. However, the upgrade is free if you are already running Windows 8 Pro. But if you are running Windows 8, then you have to pay full price!

— If you are a student you can buy Windows 8.1 Pro for Rs.3,499! While students have always got discounts the difference between the price an average user and a student are expected to pay is huge.

— If you run Windows XP or Windows Vista, you can upgrade to Windows 8 for Rs.7,999. Then a free upgrade is available to Windows 8.1. The interesting bit here is that if you are running XP or Vista, which are older than the Windows 7, you pay less to upgrade to Windows 8.1.

The way I see it, none of these options make any sense. There is no logic in the price, at least none that makes sense for a consumer. The price of the Windows 8.1 Pro is more than 50 per cent of the price of the computers we assembled!

May be Microsoft wants to make it difficult for people to buy Windows. May be someone in the Microsoft sales team mixed up the numbers wrong. May be Microsoft’s hardware partners hold gun to its head and force it to not sale Windows at prices that make sense so that people don’t build assembled machines.

Whatever the reasons, the bitter truth is that it is incredibly difficult justifying purchase of Windows. And maybe that’s why people, because they can’t get Windows easily, hate it so much.

On laptops and prebuilt desktops the versions of Windows people get offer poor experience. On all Dell and HP machines, the Windows comes with a number of unwanted programs already installed inside it. People can’t get the proper Windows on their laptops. Earlier, these machines used to come with recovery disks. Now they don’t. Yes, people can make their own recovery disks. But how many really know how to do it or bother to create one. They don’t even realise there is a problem until there is a problem.

The standalone Windows offers the best Windows experience. Unfortunately, Microsoft makes it almost impossible for people to buy it.

If you ask us, which Windows to buy right now, we will suggest you don’t. Just download the Windows 10 Technical Preview, which is free to use, and use that on the home computer. It is good – in fact, it is better than the Windows 8.1 — for home use. Once the final version is out, buy that.

If that is not the option, and for majority we believe it may not be because Windows 10 builds are slightly raw right now, try to get a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium. In your local market, you may still get a copy or two for around Rs.6,000. That was the best Windows — in terms of value, price and usability — Microsoft ever sold. It is still good enough. The pity is that Microsoft no longer sells something like that now.

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